Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Enough is Enough

I went to Cafe Nine last night to hear Marc Douglas Berardo play. There's something in his songs that always goes right through me. I have yet to attend a show of his without tearing up at a new song. This time it was a song about Havana. Yep, he went there. And there I was, with a lump in my throat and my dad in my heart. My dad, who offered me unconditional love and appreciated me in spite of my quirks, flaws and fuck-ups. This brings me, in a roundabout way, to the point of this post.

I had a chance to catch up with an old friend between sets. We drank beers, chatted and just hung out. It was pretty great. Eventually, the talk turned to my lack of luck in love as of late (heaven forbid I have a conversation with a straight man in a relationship and not ask what's up with the rest of his gender). He said something that struck me enough to post it here (after not posting for how long? Exactly). Apparently, my problem is one of semantics. Instead of saying (and understanding and believing) that something didn't work out with someone because it wasn't the right fit, I automatically say (and believe) that it's because I wasn't "enough". Pretty enough, smart enough, sexy enough, tall enough, enough enough, on and on. This, my friend pointed out, is dumb because "enough" is totally subjective. And, by the way, I am more than enough and I should probably come to terms with that soon. I may, in fact, be the shit. So, we made a deal. I promised (maybe I solemnly swore, I was on my fourth beer at this point) to stop using the word "enough" when talking about all things related to myself in the realm of romance. If I find myself in a situation that's not working, I'll try to say (and understand and believe) that it's bad timing or a bad fit, and not mark it as a personal failure because I think someone else thinks am not "enough." We high-fived on it and ordered another round. Another step in Love's recovery. And that's enough for now.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

What the Hell?

Here's what happens: I make a pact with myself that I'm going to write everyday, build up a good month's worth of material and then fall off the wagon. I don't make writing a priority. Well, I do for a while and then I don't for a longer while. I get scared. I wonder if I have it in me to put it all out there. My fear is irrational, but it is there and it has a hold on me. I start to write something and end up questioning and criticizing it before I'm halfway through. Everybody does that, right?

I have a writing assignment. It's a one off I sent over to E, something I needed to get off my chest so I could sleep. The draft is crap, but E is encouraging me to make it better. Part of me wants to never touch it again, but I have to stop doing that. I keep writing "good beginnings," but I never do anything more with them. Maybe because I don't think I know how. How am I going to make two hundred words that sort of suck into eight hundred words that suck less?

Today, instead of writing, I napped, snacked, surfed the interwebs, watched people walk their dogs, did some more spring cleaning, watched the original Yours, Mine and Ours (I have a big crush on young Tim Mathieson) and finished reading Love is a Mixtape. I could have found some time in there to write. I think, read and talk about writing more than I actually write these days. All that thinking, reading and talking is not doing me any good. Dp I really want to be a writer or if I just want to talk and think about being writer? That's what E asked me yesterday. I never really do anything with the stuff I write, so do I really want it? Do I want to be a writer or do I just want to write from time to time and leave it at that? I don't know anymore.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Moment

You sit down, ready to write and...nothing. Not a damn thing comes to mind. That's not true. Nothing you feel like sharing, out of fear or embarrassment or concern that you will say too much and someone will get hurt. Someone like you. So you push it down, ignore it, figure you will save it for another day. But it's there, lurking, waiting, keeping you up at night. You know what you feel, but you don't know how to say it in a way that anyone would understand. You don't even understand it, so how in the hell will anyone else get it.

You get up and go to the kitchen. You make tea. You go back to the computer check facebook, blogs, email. You're stalling and you know it. Whatever it is, you can't or won't say it. Not tonight. You sit and you think about it some more. Really, if it's keeping you from writing (or thinking) about anything else, then why not say it?

And then it happens. What your best friend once called "the moment of breaking." The hurt, the frustration, the confusion, the trying to make sense of how you got to this place. It all spills out, faster than you can keep up with it. It still doesn't make sense, but it's out of your system. You feel lighter, unburdened, relieved and maybe, just maybe you'll be able to sleep.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Super Sunday

Ever wonder what would happen if a comedian didn't host the Oscars? Me neither, but someone must have considered the possibility because it happened. And the results were...not bad! Let's recap, shall we?

Sparkle...Magic: In case you were wondering, the sparkly curtain at the front of the Kodak Theater? Swarovski crystals.

Nice to meet Hugh: Still a little on the fence about Hugh as host, don't know why. Maybe because he was so relaxed and seemed to genuinely be having a good time. I'm not accustomed to the host not having at least one moment where things go wrong and they to want to be swallowed whole by the stage or played off by Bill Conti (who, by the way, was not missed by ANYONE).

Close to Hugh:
The big show felt a little smaller, a little more intimate. The orchestra was moved and the audience got to be a little closer to the action. The good news is some winners had a shorter walk to the stage. The bad news is everyone in the front row got to see a whole lotta Beyonce.

And the winners were: I may be in the minority, but I really loved the whole "welcome to the club" presentation of the acting categories and the montages introducing those segments. I know some people thought it was too much mush, but think about it,'re nominated for an Academy Award, it's the biggest night of your life and instead of having to watch that same clip of yourself (the one you have now seen at the SAGs, the Globes, the BAFTA's and the Spirits), Shirley MacLaine or Robert DeNiro or Eva Marie Saint or Alan Arkin walks out and talks about how awesome you were in your movie. How are you NOT thrilled? How do you NOT get emotional? And if your name happens to be called when that envelope is opened? BONUS!

His and Hers: Last year, Javier Bardem became the first Spaniard to win the Academy Award. His co-star (and lady love) Penelope Cruz is now the second Spaniard to win. For those of you who do not speak the Spanish: All of the loyal people of Spain, now they share this moment with me and feel that this (Oscar) is theirs also, so I dedicate to them. To all of the actors and actresses of my country, Thanks a lot.

Que Viva Espana!

Kate, so great: Sixth time is the charm for our girl Kate, the youngest person to be nominated that many times for an Oscar. This was totally worth the wait, if only for that sweet moment when she said, "Dad, whistle or something, 'cause then I'll know where you are." (He whistles.) "Yeah!" (Waving to him.) "I love you." My sister and I agreed that our dear dad would have done the same thing...and then he would have started sobbing.

Bonus: This is what it looks like when it really hits her backstage.

Milk Men: What a beautiful speech by Dustin Lance Black. Heartfelt, genuine, lovely. Well done, sir. Well done.

About that dress, briefly: Penelope Cruz in vintage Balmain Coutoure. AWESOME. Natalie Portman in Rodarte? SO Audrey. Taraji P. Henson in Roberto Cavalli? Amazing (and that necklace! Love it.) I could have done without the feathers on Nicole Kidman's dress, but she looked good. Diane Lane? Perfect and lovely, as usual. Anne Hathaway in Armani Prive? Sparkly and gorgeous! Sarah Jessica Parker in Dior Haute Couture? Only person who could get away with it. You know who couldn't get away with it? Jessica Biel in Prada. As my mother would say, "No goo." On a brighter, hotter note...

Let's hear it for the boys: Damn, the men looked good in their tuxedoes. They combed their hair, wore ties, some of them even shaved! Even Mickey Rourke, in his white Gaultier suit looked good for Mickey Rourke. My favorite? Craig, Daniel Craig. Damn.

Two words: Slumdog Millionaire. Eight Oscars. Effing Brilliant. Haven't gone? Go NOW.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Seeing Things

I went to see Ghost on Sunday with Heather. Yes, dead Patrick Swayze, teary Demi Moore, psychic Whoopi Goldberg Ghost from 1990. It may surprise you to know that it was nominated for an Oscar for, wait for it...BEST PICTURE. I know, crazy right? It still holds up almost twenty years later. Swayze and Demi look gorgeous, Tony Goldwyn is the perfect evil best friend and the story is engaging. The special effects are dated, but overall, not a bad flick for a Sunday morning. The mimosas probably helped.

In preparation for Oscar Sunday (aka My Superbowl) I've seen Ghost, Roman Holiday, Pat & Mike, Say Anything, the Age of Innocence, Gigi, and most of Funny Face. Heaven bless Robert Osbourne, TCM and their 31 Days of Oscar. I might have a crush on Osbourne. He's such a gentleman, with his white hair and classic clothes. It also helps that he has an encyclopedic knowledge of film. The man loves his job and I love him for it.

So, I'm watching Funny Face last night and I am struggling to believe that Audrey Hepburn would fall in love with Fred Astaire. Richard Avedon, sure (Astaire's character, Dick Avery, is loosely based on Avedon), but Astaire? Not buying it. I can buy her falling for Bogart and Holden in Sabrina, Peck in Roman Holiday, Gary Cooper in Love in the Afternoon and especially Cary Grant in Charade (who DIDN'T fall for Cary Grant in Charade?). I'm just not feeling Fred. It's not that he's too old, most of Audrey's leading men were considerably older. Maybe he's too smooth, aloof. I know, I'm biased. I'm a Gene Kelly person. Always have been, always will be. I can't help it. Astaire, is absolutely an icon in his white tie and tails, but give me Gene in a polo shirt, khakis and some loafers any day. Oh, what do I know? Judge for yourself and watch Fred and Gene rock it out in The Babbit and the Bromide.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

No Ordinary Love

"Life isn't a love in, it's the dishes and the orthodontist and the shoe repairman and... ground round instead of roast beef. And I'll tell you something else: it isn't going to a bed with a man that proves you're in love with him; it's getting up in the morning and facing the drab, miserable, wonderful everyday world with him that counts." - Henry Fonda as Frank Beardsley in Yours, Mine & Ours (1968)

My parents were married for forty-five years. They survived a revolution, moved to a country where they did not speak the language, started a business, made a home,
raised three children, fought a lot, laughed a lot, traveled (alone and together) and opened their home to countless refugees (and helped find them jobs and homes). They took care of each other (and us) no matter the cost. Sickness, health, richer, poorer, better or worse, they were in it for the long haul. God knows it wasn't easy, but they stuck it out. As my mother once said to one of a friend who told her she should go home and get some rest after spending days at my father's side in the hospital, "After forty plus years, I'm not leaving now."

I will think of my parents
on Valentine's Day and remind myself that, not only is lifelong love absolutely possible, I've seen it in action. How lucky am I?

Monday, February 09, 2009

First and Last

I've probably mentioned this before, but I wrote a book about ten years ago (OK, more like going on twelve years). It's twenty-six poems, that I wrote in no particular order. Somehow when I put them all together, they made sense. They tell the story of who I was and who I loved at that time in my life. Now that I'm writing again, and I'm more serious about the writing, I'm wondering if it's time to do something with these. Take a look and let me know what you think. Thanks.
Here's the opener:
Brunette seeks
Foreigner to
Insight and
Joy. Must have
Killer smile,
Legs of steel and good
Sexual appetite
To be asked later.
Until our
Very anticipated
Walk through an
X-rated garden,
Your face
Zooms in my memory.

And the closer:

Arrives at the
Back of my throat,
Closing it
Every bit of
Is it possible?
Jellyfish for hands. Where
Knees once
Own the
Remarkable this
Spell. And
To have kept me
Under, you must be
Versed in the
X-otic language of

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A to Z: another exercise

Give it a try, but you have to do it right. Copy this whole thing, go to your profile/notes/new note, click and paste.

Then comes the hard part. Replace my answers with your own. Then tag as many of your friends as you'd like…

- Available: More than I should be
- Age: A rocking 36
-Annoyance: You know when you reach in the kitchen cabinet to grab a pan and everything clangs together? Yeah, that's an annoyance.
- Animal: PS #2 Dolphin, Memorial Tiger, Hartford Hawk...I've been them all.

- Beer: Lately, it's Harp or Stella
- Birthday: June 19
- Best Friend: Ia, Cat, Aaron
- Body Part on opposite sex: Eyes and thighs
- Best feeling in the world: spooning after the fact and falling asleep that way
- Best weather: right before a summer storm, when the wind picks up but it's still!
- Been in Love: Thought so repeatedly, but really only twice.
- Been on stage?: I have played Susan B. Anthony, one of Santa's elves, one of the babies from Free to Be, You and Me, and Deniece Williams lip-synching to Let's Hear it for the Boy from the movie Footloose. Yeah, this girl's got RANGE!
- Believe in Magic: Absolutely, all kinds
- Believe in Santa: My mother ruined Santa for me. She would have me pick out the present, wrap it and then stick it under the element of surprise whatsoever.

- Candy: Cadbury Dairy Milk, preferable from England
- Color: Red
- Chocolate or Vanilla: Vanilla with a swirl of fudge
- Chinese or Mexican Food: Mexican
- Cake or pie: Cake a la mode (that means of the fashion)
- Continent to visit: Europe
- Cheese: Pleasant Cow from the Wooster Square Farmers' Market

Day or Night: You know the night-time is the right time
Dancing in the rain: Yes, and in my head it is ALWAYS with Gene Kelly

- Eyes: Two of them, dark brown
- Everyone's got: a hungry heart.
- Ever failed a class?: Almost. Chemistry. What was I thinking?

- First thoughts waking up: What am I going to wear?
- Food: Used to be my enemy...we're on better terms now.

- Greatest Fear: Already realized.
- Goals: To be published, to help send Flash to college.
- Gum: Sweetmint
- Get along with your parents? After a decade of living in the Bell Jar, I can say that I do.
- Hair Color: Pepper with a dash of salt. (as opposed to A Salt with a Deadly Pepa)
- Height: 5 foot 2
- Happy: Lately, yes! Thanks for asking.
-Holiday: Christmas Eve
- How do you want to die: Happy

- Ice Cream: Chocolate Chocolate Chip or Rocky Road
- Instrument: My body

- Jewelry: Tiffany's (I know how that sounds, but two of my favorite pieces are from there and they were given to me by two of my favorite)
- Job: Downtown Deputy

- Kids: The best kind, nieces and nephews!
- Kickboxing or karate: Couldn't we just have a dance off?
- Keep a journal? Ummmm, have you not been reading my notes on here?

- Love: “I was born with an enormous need for affection, and a terrible need to give it.” -AH
- Letter: Write them when I can, love to receive them

Milk flavor: Chocolate
Movies: Old and in Black and White, usually featuring a beautiful young woman who falls for someone WAY too old for her.
Motion sickness? No
McD’s or BK: McDonald's fries are legalized crack.

- Number: 19

- One wish: One more day

- Pepsi or Coke: Coke
- Perfect Pizza: Mashed potato, bacon and garlic from BAR
- Piercing: 1 in the right ear, 3 in the left ear, 1 in the belly button

- Quail: Sucky VP. Oh wait, that's not how you spell it, is it? HA.
- Quiet?: I wish

- Reason to cry: Release
- Reality T.V.: Too much, sadly.
- Radio Station: 105.9 for the 80s at 8, then it's all itunes.
- Roll your tongue in a circle: Indeed.
- Ring size: 6.25. What? You think most women don't know their ring size?

- Song: Lately it's As Cool As I Am by Dar Williams and Nostradamus Said by Al Raebuck.
- Shoe size: 9 aka GIANT
- Salad Dressing: Oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper
- Sushi: Miya's or Miso
- Skinny dipped?: No...I should get right on that, in July.
- In the shower?: Soap, face wash, washcloth, razor, shampoo, body scrub. I have too much stuff in there.
- Strawberries or blueberries? Yes, please.

- Tattoos?: Nope.
- Thunderstorms: Best when shared with someone while lying in bed.

- Unpredictable: I can be.

- Vacation spot(s): Let's call this places I don't get to enough: Block Island, Dublin, London
- Weakness: Bad boys (such a cliche. I blame Johnny Depp)
- Which one of your friends acts the most like you? I have friends who have very similar senses of humor, but I wouldn't say any of us act alike.
- Worst feeling: The dizziness when I get out of a too hot shower and I have to sit on the bathroom floor. I always think, "great, this is how someone is going to find me?"
- Wanted to be a model?: We had a modeling team at my high school. I never tried out. Too bad because I think I have a great walk.
- Worst Weather?: Anything with a wind chill in single digits. My people are island people, we don't fancy the cold.

- X-Rays: Not recently. Just a sonogram. On my leg.

-Year it is now: 2009
-Yellow: Living room

- Zoo animal?: I haven't been to the zoo since the 1980s.
- Zydeco?: Buckwheat?

Friday, February 06, 2009

ACT. Now.

Why arts, culture and tourism are important to me:

I live here. I’m lucky enough to live in a city (and a state) that allows me the luxury of seeing amazing art (from the masters to modern architecture), dining in some of the finest restaurants around and enjoying exciting festivals and arts events all year round, all within walking distance of my apartment.

I work here. As Deputy Director of the Town Green Special Services District, I know first hand the importance of the arts, culture and tourism to the community. Every day, our staff works with countless merchants, restaurateurs, hotels, attractions and arts agencies to get the word out about our fabulous city. These organizations employ thousands of residents, entertain thousands of visitors and keep our local economy strong. Arts, culture and tourism makes a city a more appealing place to live, work and play and enhances the quality of life in ways that are sometimes intangible.

My closest friends in the world are artists. They are painters, print makers, photographers, sound designers, ceramicists, musicians and writers. Some of them are fortunate enough to make their living making art and some of them have day jobs that allow them the time to make art. They are all talented, passionate and unstoppable in their pursuit of creation. They inspire me every day.

I’m an artist. The arts are my outlet, my sanity, my safe place. I’ve been writing poems, essays and (now) blogging since I was fourteen years old.

Join the cause, save the arts, feed your soul, do some good. ACT.

Visit the ACT for Economy facebook page or sign the petition at Tourism Works for Connecticut

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Wintry Mix

In the spirit of list making, I give you a mix of songs that can perk me up, make me smile and heal me. It's also a bit of a personal history. I am including my favorite lyric from each one, because as much as it's about the melody, the writer in me loves a good lyric.

Growing up:

Guantanamera/Celia Cruz "Y antes de morir, you quiero cantar mis versos del alma."
This one always reminds me of my dad and all the people I grew up around. They sang it at parties. The first time I heard it after my dad passed away, I cried and cried. Now I can listen to it and think of happier times.

ABC/Jackson Five "Naw! Get up Girl! Show me what you can do!"
A call to action that always gets me moving. The first thing I saw on the giant color TV my dad got for us was the Jackson 5 cartoon. AWESOME.

Boys of Summer/Don Henley "Out on the road today, I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadilllac, a little voice inside my head said don't look back, you can never look back."
It always takes me back to
walking to school with Arlene after our Algebra 1 class at the high school. I don't think either of us knew what a Deadhead sticker was at the time.

Never Tear Us Apart/INXS "I told you...that we could fly. Cuz we all have wings, but some of us don't know why."
Junior Prom, 1989. My first little black dress. Jessica McLintock, off the shoulder with a rose where I should have had some cleavage. It was classic...for 1989.

Falling in and out of love:

Barely Breathing/Duncan Sheik "I don't know who I'm kidding, imagining you care"
Beautiful and bittersweet .

Jersey Girl/Tom Waits (or Springsteen) "Cuz down the shore, everything's alright. You and your baby on a Saturday night. Nothing matters in this whole wide world, when you're in a Jersey girl." Right on.

Love Will Never Do Without You/Janet Jackson "If you believe in love, SING!"
Great sentiment, great song, great video. Herb Ritts, you are missed.

Cinnamon Girl/Neil Young
"You see your baby loves to dance."
He's right, I do.

Losing him:

Walk On/U2 "And I know it aches, how your heart it breaks, you can only take so much." I listened to this song over and over the summer my dad got sick. It helped. A lot.

Seal/Love's Divine
Love can help me know my name." I was listening to this song one afternoon while cleaning the kitchen and...I just lost it. All the hurt inside me just poured out in chest heaving sobs. I looked like hell afterwards, but I felt so much better.

Anthems that get me through these days:

As Cool as I Am by Dar Williams "I will not be afraid of women" Every word of this song strikes a chord, but that's the best line.

I'm Free/Soup Dragons "Don't be afraid of your freedom!" We must have listened to this one a million times in college. Reminds me of hanging out with my best friends, laughing and dancing. An excellent reminder on the days I feel low.

Freedom '90/George Michael "All we have to see is that I don't belong to you and you don't belong to me." In the last year, I have found it to be even more relevant.

Mama Said Knock You Out/LL Cool J "I'm gonna take this itty bitty world by storm, and I'm just getting warm!" A power track, makes me feel ready to take on the world.

Right Here, Right Now/Jesus Jones "There is no other place I'd wanna be. Right here, right now, watching the world wake up from history." Hell yes.

I could go on and on, but I'm sleepy now. Feel free to chime in with your faves. Consider this an endless mix tape and play on.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Midnight Rambler

  1. My earliest memory: Gene Kelly dancing in the fountain at the end of An American in Paris.
  2. I wrote a fan letter to Gene Kelly when I was seventeen. A year later, I received an autographed photo. I have it framed in my office.
  3. There is no simple answer to the question, “What’s your favorite movie?”
  4. Movies I watch whenever they are on TV: To Kill a Mockingbird, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Auntie Mame, The Philadelphia Story. Notice anything?
  5. I love a good “wink,” in a movie. For example: In His Girl Friday, Cary Grant says, “Listen, the last man that said that to me was Archie Leach just a week before he cut his throat.” Cary Grant’s real name was Archie Leach. I think that’s fantastic.
  6. The older I get, the more I dislike chick-flicks, especially ones that have been released in the last five years. I want to shake my fist at the screen and shout, “We are not all desperate for a husband! Some of us just want to have sex regularly with someone who is not a total jerk!” I’ve pretty much stopped going to those types of movies.
  7. I have never walked out of a movie. Not even to go to the bathroom. Once I’m in, that’s it. I’ve made the commitment and am sticking with it.
  8. Based on numbers 6 and 7, I have become more selective about which movies I see in the theater.
  9. I own ten little black dresses. I can’t stop buying them. I like to fancy myself the Cuban Audrey Hepburn. I am delusional.
  10. I try to be a lady, but I'm more of a broad. I love to swear (the F word is so versatile). I love a project where I can do some heavy lifting (although my back is not a fan of that). My best friend's parents call me Mighty Mouse...small but strong.
  11. I like to think I'm good at bringing catch phrases into my friends' lexicon. Perhaps you have heard (or spoken) some of my work? There’s sweet cracker sandwich, that's SO Audrey, and batshit bananas. My most recent creation? Random Act of Hotness. I may also be responsible for bringing back "douche." Yeah. Sorry about that.
  12. I used to eat ice cream for breakfast while watching Saturday morning cartoons.
  13. My mom and I would watch Tarzan movies on Sundays after she got home from church. She thought Cheetah was a riot.
  14. Sometimes when I am falling asleep, I hear the voices of deceased loved ones. I find it comforting and scary at the same time.
  15. Years ago, my best friend’s family cat died. I was upset for her and when she told me it was OK, because he was 19, I said, “Rose Kennedy is 104 and she is still alive.” Rose Kennedy died a few days later. I have since “killed” Bruno Kirby, Estelle Getty and was an accomplice in the death of Luther Vandross. Ever since, whenever someone says, “Is so and so dead?” I know it’s only a matter of time.
  16. I celebrated my twenty-first birthday in Dublin, Ireland. I sat outside the Norseman Pub and had a pint with my best friend. Best. Birthday. Ever.
  17. I was a late bloomer and didn't have a boyfriend until I was twenty-one years old. In retrospect, I'm glad for the experience, but I should have waited a bit longer.
  18. I fell in love at first sight when I was 22. It was across a crowded room. It didn’t last, but man, it was something. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
  19. I still think of him.
  20. I like to refer to that time before a summer storm, when it’s warm but blustery and the sky is getting dark, as “sexy weather.” Because it is.
  21. It took me thirty-four years to realize that if I am reading a book and it’s not interesting to me, I don’t have to finish it. You have no idea how freeing that is for someone who studied literature.
  22. Based on the kind of food I grew up eating (rice, beans, fried meat, fried plantains), my mother’s style of cooking (lard played a large role in most meals), and my father’s penchant for bringing a candy bar home for me every night, I’m truly amazed I didn’t grow up to weigh a thousand pounds.
  23. When I feel like I’m losing control of my life (personally or professionally) the secret switch inside of me flips and I stop eating, sometimes for long stretches of time. The last time it got really bad was when my relationship ended. Yes, it's a disorder of the eating variety, and yes, I keep an eye on it.
  24. If I could go back and change one day, it would be my first day of high school. It was epically bad, but not for the typical reasons.
  25. I keep a list of encouraging things people have said or written to me over the years. It’s called Self-Esteem Check. It helps.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Poem for the Moment

I've made some notes in my book, finished Bird by Bird and started Thinking About Memoir. Now what? A poem.

The Words

There they are
on the page
And now
I'm writing
The words, the words, the words
sometimes they don't show up
sometimes I can't keep up
it is surprising
their presence
is a comfort
and a terror
all at once
No one may ever see them
There it is
the comfort
and the terror
all at once

Daisy C. Abreu, 9/16/07
revised 1/25/09

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Notes on the Process

In a few days, I will have written more posts on this blog than I did in all of 2008. How cool is that? I have to admit that this seeming burst of creativity isn't actually a burst at all. It's a daily grind. It's my other job, writing. It's my avocation. Spilling my guts, working on the stories of my life, trying to make sense of everything in my life is a therapeutic work out and an exercise in getting over myself. Except when I'm staring at the screen trying to figure out where to start.

I realized after talking with T tonight, that part of my "problem," is that I am used to writing in tidbits. Poems have long been my preferred method of expression, so writing longer pieces on a nightly basis, that aren't in longhand in my journal, seems daunting. I love telling stories, but writing them down is a whole other deal altogether. I was thinking about this in the shower this morning. The issue I'm having with Coach E's assignments isn't that I can't write about my past. It's realizing I can't remember most of it. The pieces I'm working on about my childhood trip to Cuba are daunting because although I "thought" I remembered a lot of it, getting Coach E's assignments makes me realize I don't really remember much detail. The things that would flesh my story out? Gone. I look at photos and remember the broad strokes of the story, but I fear the minutiae is lost. What to do?

For now, I will keep making notes on the stuff I've started on to fill in the blanks the best I can. I'll also keep brainstorming offline and piecing the bigger story together. And I'll keep posting writing exercises, award show recaps and notes on my current life to keep my momentum going. It turns out, importing blog posts to facebook gives me access to an audience of objective and subjective readers. Keep those comments coming, especially if you remember something!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's Not About the Dress

When Michelle Obama walked out of the Blair House today on her way to church, she took my breath away. Not simply because she was on her way to becoming the First Lady or because of her lovely lemongrass ensemble, but because of what that outfit meant to me. Here's the thing: the woman who designed that dress and who has now been brought to national, if not global, prominence was once a Cuban girl from West New York, New Jersey. Just like me.

Whenever someone mentioned how much they liked Mrs. Obama's dress today, I beamed. And maybe I bragged...OK, I totally bragged, "I know the designer! She's my sister's oldest friend and she used to babysit for me AND she is amazing!" Yes, today was a monumental moment in our nation's history. And yes, the matter of what the First Lady wore today may be considered minor, even trivial, to some. But, to the people of a small town in New Jersey (not to mention the contingencies in Miami and Camajuani, Cuba) this is HUGE. This is "yes, we can," Latin style. And what it means to this Cuban girl from West New York is immeasurable. Because it's family.

Isabel Toledo has been a part of my family's life for as long as I can remember. Our families were tight when I was growing up and Isy remains very close with my sister. They went to high school together. They were at each other's weddings (my sister was her maid of honor). They catch up the way all best friends do when they can get each other on the phone or send a quick email. It's never "my friend, the fashion designer," with my sister. It's just Isy.

I on the other hand, might be considered a bit of a stalker. Not a scary stalker, just a very avid fan and follower of her career. It still amazes me that someone I know, someone I grew up around and always looked up to, is...famous. I still get a thrill when I open up a fashion magazine and see her work. It's beyond cool to me. I know she's just a person, but she's a ridiculously talented person who gets paid to do what she loves and has had great success at it. Like I said, beyond cool.

I have mentioned before that Isy's parents, Bertie and Felix are two of my favorite people of all time. I will say it again here. I loved them the way I love my own parents. They were loving and hard-working and hilarious and they treated me like I was their own. Felix, tall with silver hair and a dark mustache, looked like a movie star to me, like Gregory Peck. I remember he laughed through this teeth. I can hear it now. I remember my mother always called Bertie by her maiden name, "Berta Perez," but I couldn't tell you why. I remember spending afternoons at Abuela Casilda's apartment on the 22nd floor of one of the senior housing buildings with my mother, Felix and Bertie. We played bingo for pennies (cleaned out Parkay tubs are good for holding the loot), drank Cuban coffee and had a lot of laughs.

I wish Bertie and Felix had lived to see this great day, to see their girl achieve this great thing. In my heart I know that they, together with my father and all those old Cubans who raised us in that giant extended family in West New York, New Jersey, are smiling down, saying ¡Si, podemos!.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Practical Magic

With apologies to my sister if I got any of this wrong:

My sister was talking to her kids the other night about our father and how he is still a presence in our lives. Apparently, Brian (her youngest) remembered playing in his room shortly after my father passed away and feeling someone rub his head and put a hand on his shoulder. He knew it was his Papi, so he wasn't afraid. In fact, he said that he had felt the same presence recently when he was playing in his room. "I know it's Papi." My niece has had the same experience, that feeling that someone is in the room with her, watching over her.

My family has always had an affinity for the spiritual side of things. Growing up, I experienced a healthy mix of Catholicism and...something else. Not Santeria, not voodoo, but some sort of white magic mixed with old wives tales and a belief system my mother feels as strongly about as she does the church. Religious statues and photos are spread around the house (most notably Santa Barbara, San Lazaro and Pope John Paul II) and called upon daily. My mother spends the first part of her day reading from a book of prayers to honor my father and grandparents, but also for the comfort she receives from the ritual. In good weather, she is known to go to church multiple times a week. She will ask God to bless us before we leave her side and she will thank God (and Jesus and the Virgin and the saints) whenever good fortune shines upon a loved one. Candles are lit, holy water is sprinkled, prayers are said, but sometimes there is more.

Here's a good one: I'm a teenager holed up in my room and my mother calls me out into the hallway. I walk out and go "What?" She proceeds to rub me from top to toe with...a coconut. A real unopened coconut. This is supposed to clean me of any bad spirits lurking within me.

Another: On New Year's eve, my mother will mix up a bucket with holy water, regular water, some perfumes from the botanica and some flower petals. If you are living in that house and planning to shower, please know that you are expected to do your final rinse with whatever is in that bucket. What difference does it make if flower petals stick to your body? After midnight, she will walk through the whole house sprinkling holy water and then she will pitch that bucket out the door, sending all the bad spirits out with it.

She's got a million of them. You better believe
my mother can fix what ails you through the power of prayer, a well placed lemon or a strong dose of Vick's Vaporub. In recent years, I have come to know my mother's powers and am starting to believe that I may have some too, although I have no idea what to do with them. I often say to my friends, "I must have brought you with my thoughts." Part of me is starting to believe I can. Is it magic when I have a dream about someone I haven't seen in a long time and then I hear from them the next day? The strongest example was the time my mother, sister and I all had the exact same dream about my dad, on the same night. Spooky, yet comforting.

My mom says she learned how to use her gift from her mother, who had learned from her mother before. I have never known my mother to use her skills for anything but good, so maybe leaning in and listening more closely when she tells the story is what I need to do. You never know when a good spell could come in handy.

Trying to Piece it Together

OK, I'm frustrated. I made an attempt to write last night when I got home, but nothing seemed to make sense. There's a lot on my mind, but I'm not sure how to get it out and on the page. What's a girl to do? Stream of consciousness it is.

I had a dream last night that crossed from past to present and back again. I was at my dad's lab, but I was with my New Haven friends. The lab looked the same as it did the last time I was there, which is to say it was kind of a mess. Stacks of newspapers under the counter, molds for teeth on the work tables and a fine dust covering everything. It was late at night, it was cold and there were people there waiting for a ride to the airport. One of my coworkers was in the space, and one of my interns, someone I hadn't seen in a long time. I remember hugging my intern and seeing the people off to the airport. That's all that comes to mind now.

I spent the bulk of my childhood at my dad's lab, doing homework, sweeping up and hanging out with my father and his friends and clients. It was close to the grammar and high schools, so it made sense for me to go there in the morning and have breakfast with him, then come back after classes to go home together. And it was where I waited the two hours between school and gymnastics practice. The TV was usually on, tuned to a Yankee game. If there wasn't a game on, then the radio was playing. My dad loved us, the Yankees and music.

I was there when the Challenger was lost and it was there that I ran after learning that one of my high school classmates had died. I remember my father hugging me and crying with me and telling me he understood how I felt. He was always the more emotional one of my parents, though my mother has softened some over the last few years. That was his place, the hub of his world. He spent more time there than he did at home, six or seven days a week, sometimes up to twelve hours a day, making dentures for every Cuban in town. I couldn't tell you if he loved the work, but I can tell you that he was good at it. He was so good that after he retired, he still made teeth for people, although now he was doing it out of my childhood bedroom. I wonder what all his clients thought of the hot pink walls and the Michael Jackson stickers.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Note to Self

It is super late, but I have the computer up and running, so I may as well write.

I am grateful that I even have the energy to be typing. It's been a long and busy couple of weeks, but I am happy. Things are falling into place, or maybe I am putting things in place. Getting my priorities straight and putting out a more positive vibe has helped me see the good in my life. I am feeling stronger than I have in a long time. I am open to what's out there, personally and professionally, and I am striving to be my best. I wish I could go back in time and tell the fourteen year old girl I was all the things I know now. I would assure her that mistakes will be made, but she will be better for them.That all those times she followed her heart, she was right, even when she thought she was wrong, because that's how lessons are learned. I would tell her to not worry about that dance she didn't get to go to, because there will be plenty of opportunities to dance all night when she is older. I would encourage her to keep reading, because it will come in handy in life and at trivia night. On that same note, I would tell her that there is nothing wrong with being brainy...some boys actually like that in a girl. Speaking of boys, I would tell her that it's OK to wait, because although there is a rush when you finally get there, there's no rush in getting there. I would tell her that she will find friends that feel like family and that she will eventually see her family as her friends. She should hold on tight to all those people, because they will get her through the worst of it. And I would tell her that, in the end, things will turn out the way they are supposed to.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Waking Life

Wondering, wandering, searching my mind for something to say that will make some kind of sense. I am beginning to realize that if I have an idea over the course of the day, it would probably be wise to jot it down so that I can share it here. I had something in my head when I woke up yesterday morning and foolishly thought I would remember it, but between work and social engagements, I lost track of somewhere over the course of the day. Dammit.

I used to write notes to myself about particularly vivid dreams the moment I woke up. "Remember dream: hospital room." Then I would pick up my notebook before bed and fill in the blanks. It's funny when that happens, the super vivid dreaming. Not "funny ha ha," more "funny hm," and occasionally, "funny uh-oh." I suppose I dream every night, but only remember some and of those some, very few are super vivid. By super vivid I mean I wake up wondering if someone has been in the apartment.

More peculiar (to me) dream stuff:

When I was little, I was able to wake myself out of scary dreams then drift back into them in a safer moment. Not time travel, more sleepwalking, without the walking.

In times of extreme stress, I have what I believe to be panic attacks in my sleep. I'll be puttering around, doing my thing in the same room in which I am sleeping. Everything will be the same as it is when I'm conscious, until I notice one thing that is totally out of wack, not like a monster, more like a feeling that things are not what they seem. I begin to panic, open my mouth to speak or scream and nothing comes out. For example, I once had a dream that something was wrong with me and I was trying to call out for help to someone I could see in another room. No sound. I wave my arms and scream at what I think is the top of my lungs and...nothing. I know I'm dreaming and try to force myself awake, but can't do it. More panic. Actually, it's more of a freak out. If and when I wake up, the struggle in the dream is so exhausting that I pass right back out...and then I am in it again, fighting to get out. Typically the coming to and passing out happens three or four times. These dreams have become rarer, but on the occasions when they do happen, they will mess me up for a whole day. Good times.

About a year after he died, I had a very intense dream about my dad. I was in our old apartment on 60th Street, standing just outside my bedroom. I could see my dad down the hall in the living room. Up to this point, every dream I had about my dad was a happy one. He was young and healthy and totally at his best. In this dream, he was in his pajamas and didn't look well. I wanted to go to him but reach him. I woke up in tears and called my sister to tell her about the dream. She and my mother had both had the exact same dream on the same night. Coincidence? Powers.

I have had deja vu in a dream. This dream: I am sitting at a restaurant bar with some celebrity crush (OK, it was Gary Fencik). There is a giant window behind the bar looking out on the ocean. At some point, Gary, puts his arm around my shoulders. And I felt it. The weight of his arm across my shoulders. It was heavy enough to make my shoulders sag. And in that moment I remember thinking, "This seems very familiar. This has definitely happened before. " Then I woke up. I had this dream twenty years ago.

How is it that I can remember things like that, but somehow manage to occasionally leave my apartment without remembering to take the keys out of the door? I guess I'll sleep on it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

More of the Same

I had lunch with a new colleague today. We both have a thing about writing...we like to do it, we want to do it, but we are having trouble sticking to the "write every day," schedule. The usual excuses came up over lunch, "It's hard to get home after a long day at the office and work on your own writing." "It's easy to put it off until the weekend and then not do it at all." And, my favorite, "If the inspiration doesn't strike me..." By the end of our meal, we'd agreed to nudge each other on a regular basis and be writing buddies. Yes, I know I already have T as a writing buddy, but right now, I'm thinking you can't have too many.

I'm starting to realize there are more writers around here than I thought there were. I know the city is loaded with journalists, authors, professors, etc, who have all been published over magazines and newspapers. Hell, there are plenty of people around here who make a good living writing books. Can you believe it? Books! I have always been intimidated by these people, maybe because I think they know something I don't about writing (like how to get published). They get paid to write and, for the most part, people read their work. They seem so far ahead of me, so literary. It seems effortless for them. I know it's not, I know it's a perception. I'm working on getting over it and it's getting easier. Over the last few months, I have come across more people who aren't just working writers, but are working at writing. I am building relationships with writers. Finally. I'm not even seeking them out. I'm just talking about what I'm doing and discovering that I'm not the only one. The solitary act is becoming less lonely and I am (I think) becoming braver about it. I have a mentor in Elizabeth and two new friends who are in a similar boat. I've gone from hiding out and not knowing what I'm doing to having three people in my life who understand what it is I'm trying to do, who get what I'm struggling with and who help me push myself to do it. And I have friends and family to cheer my on while I work all of this out.

It's exciting be able to tell people that I'm writing every day. It helps me understand why I'm doing it. I'm trying to put into practice what I learned at school. I'm exercising the muscle. I've set a goal and I'm not afraid to mess up in the process. I still worry about what I'm going to write about every night. I fear that I'll have nothing to say. I procrastinate, sometimes a little, sometimes for hours. But then, I get over it and get to it. And now, I'm coming into contact with more people who understand and speak the language. I'm finding a whole new tribe.

After all these years of shying away from the title, of scribbling away in the safety of my apartment, I am beginning to understand that this is not just a way for me to pass the time. Patrice said it to me tonight, "You may have always written, but I get the feeling that you're really starting to think of yourself as a writer." She's right. I am.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Long Goodbye

I just cracked open my book of writing prompts to see if I could strike a spark tonight. The page I turned to said "write from the point of view of a person on their deathbed." I'm taking a liberty and writing about my point of view at my father's deathbed. This seems right tonight because there is a new baby in the family, and from the looks of him in photos...the old man might be back.

My dad was sick for a long time. By the summer of 2003, he was wasting away and it was getting harder for him to walk. He was getting weaker and thinner.I came home every weekend to a different person. It was a shock to me seeing how much a person, this person, could change from week to week. I didn't know how any of us were going to be able to let him go.

When he slipped into a coma, I went home to New Jersey and stayed for two weeks. I was in a staff meeting when the phone rang. It was my parents' number. They never called during the work day. I answered and heard my sister's voice. "Come home, it doesn't look good." Thank God for my coworkers who managed to call my boyfriend, get me home and take me to the train station in what felt like one huge gesture. I barely remember the train ride, but I remember Mike and I walking through Grand Central Station and seeing an exhibit of work by film students. There, in the middle of this horrible moment, in the middle of Grand Central Station, was an installation that reminded me I was still here. One lamp post, one umbrella and a screen playing Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain. As I watched the scene Leonard Bernstein called "an affirmation of life," Mike squeezed my hand and told me it was a sign.

By the time I got to the apartment, it was full of people. Neighbors, family, friends, all crammed into the living room of my parents' tiny one bedroom and that's how it was all day, every day for seven days. My dad was in the bedroom, in a hospital bed, eyes closed, breathing deeply.I had always known him to be a big guy, but now he was literally half the man he had been for most of his life. In spite of the steady stream of visitors bringing food, stories and comfort, I spent most of time with him. I rubbed lotion on his feet, cleaned his face, gave him water and medicine through a syringe I imagine people use to give kittens milk. And I talked to him. I told him who was in the room, who had visited that day. I kept him informed because I knew he would want to know things. And I knew he could hear me. That's what I tell myself anyway. The hardest thing I had to tell him was that it was OK to let go. I assured him that we would take care of my mother and each other. I told him I would be OK without him (not that I believed it at the time, and not that he's not with me every day). That is the toughest one-sided conversation I have ever had. I didn't want him to let go. I wanted him to open his eyes and ask me for something, anything. I wanted him to tell me to turn the television on because he was missing the Yankees game. I wanted him to ask me why I wasn't at work. I would have settled for a "hey, there's my girl."

At the end of the first week, I thought I would come back to New Haven, catch up on a little work, pack some more clothes and get back to his side the same day. When I went into my parents' room that morning to give him his 6am dose of morphine, I heard it. That sound they call "the death rattle." He had been breathing quietly for about a week...this was a totally different sound. I knew I wasn't leaving that day, or any time soon. I closed the bedroom door to keep my mother from hearing it.

It was Monday, September 29th. For the first time in a week, the only people in the apartment were my father, my mother, my sister, my mother's best friend and me. The hospice nurse had been there earlier in the day to see how things were going. She was surprised he had lasted so long, especially since he hadn't eaten in over a week, but she also said it wouldn't be much longer.

When my brother came home from running errands, he went into the bedroom. It took me a minute to realize that it was quiet in the room. I didn't hear the breathing anymore. I looked in and saw my brother bent over my dad, listening. When I walked in,I looked at my father and saw him exhale for the last time. My brother turned to me and said, "That's it." I said "OK," and then I lost it. My sister walked in, saw us and went to get my mother. This is where things get mystical and strange. My mother, her friend and two other neighbor ladies walked into the room and started crying and praying. At that same moment, there was a bolt of lightning and a crack of thunder. As the women prayed, it began pouring. By the time they said "Amen," the rain had stopped, the sun was shining and the sky was clear. And he was gone. When the women took my mother out of the room, my brother said, "That was fucking weird." It was, but we all agreed later that there was no way he was going to go quietly. That just wasn't his style.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Golden Ticket

Is it just me, or did this year's Golden Globes seem a wee bit...meh? Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled to have them back. Last year's press conference was depressing and downright unwatchable, but really, this year's just seemed long. Take the following comments as highlights or lowlights (and take them with a grain of salt, these are only the opinions of one avid viewer). Your choice.

Kate for the win: Kate Winslet might be the actress of her generation. She's got the range, the chops and whatever else it takes to make everything she's in better for her presence (Sense and Sensibility, Finding Neverland, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Iris, etc, etc.) Not to mention that she is well-spoken, smart, funny and seems to be a genuinely lovely person. Thank goodness someone finally recognized her for it. Not once, but twice! Good job, Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Let's hope this is a sign of more shiny objects being handed to her in the near future, like, oh, I don't OSCAR. She's been nominated for an Academy Award five times, which is very impressive, especially considering that she is a mere thirty-three years old. Oh, and she has manages to look flawless every time she hits the red carpet. Some people are not as fortunate. For example...

You OK, Renee?: I refuse to believe that Zellweger was wearing Carolina Herrera last night. The bottom is classic Herrera, but the top (if you want to call it that)? So wrong. I know that I have said before that Renee should take a fashion risk from time to time, but this is not what I meant. She looked a little Sharon Stone on a bad day to me.

Someone call the Police: Dear Sting, what the hell happened? You know I have loved you since I was ten years old. You know that you can do no wrong in my book. You know I still think you're totally hot. But if you ever, EVER, show up at an awards show looking like that again, well, I just don't know what I'll do. That look may work on Colin Farrell, but even he's cleaned up his act. You are a Commander of the British Empire now, buddy, show your Queen a little respect and button your shirt.

Bed head: Um, were people getting frisky in the limos on the way over? I'm only asking because I saw a lot of people with seriously mussed hair. Not the Gisele Bundchen beachy waves, mind you...Messed. Up. Hair. Cameron Diaz, Amy Adams, Vanessa Hudgens, Blake Lively all looked a bit wind blown as Miss Clairee would say in Steel Magnolias. Only Mickey Rourke and Drew Barrymore appeared to have crazy hair that seemed intentional.

Demi, De-Mom: I love that Demi Moore called her daughter Rumer out for slouching. No one wants to see Miss Golden Globe all hunched over like she's so over the whole thing. This is Hollywood's biggest party, and you are wearing a very expensive gown, so the least you can do is stand up straight. It's about time someone told those It girls to how to present themselves. At least Demi opened with a compliment.

Who wants to be a Millionaire: So happy for Danny Boyle and everyone involved with Slumdog Millionaire! If you haven't seen this one yet, go now. And stay for the closing credits!

I'm Latin, let's party: The President of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association spared us all the long speech about how the awards work and opted to encourage everyone in the room to have a good time. Another reason to love my people.

OK, I do like him: Colin Farrell won me over last night with his sweet speech. I have never been a fan of the guy, but he just seemed so genuine, so moved by his win...fine, he's adorable. There. I said it.

No, you can't: That's my answer to Steven Spielberg's eternal film making question. To be clear, a little boy finds and befriends an alien? Yes. Richard Dreyfuss sculpting mashed potatoes and then being swept away by aliens? Yes. An island of dinosaurs? Yes. Whatever the hell is going on in Minority Report? Yes. The ending of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull? No. The man is indeed one of the greatest film makers of all time, but I will not give that last one a pass.

Oh, shit, I forgot to hit the seven second delay button: Darren Aronofsky giving the finger to the world (OK, just to Mickey Rourke, but the world saw it). That moment is now up there with Bono dropping an F-bomb on the Globes a few years back. It's that sort of unpredictability that makes this show worth sitting through. But it would have been nice if someone's name had been called while they were in the bathroom.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Still Do, Always Will

Taking a night off might have set me back, but I'm pushing on with this. I don't know if I've learned a lesson, but I do know that the writing is important enough to to feel a little guilty when I don't do it every day.

I think the writing I'll be doing will focus more on the process and the project and less on some matters of the heart. For now. And by that I mean my present state of mind and heart. The past is the past and I have made my peace with all that happened. I was younger, eager to find love and easily convinced that I was in it. Now I find that I am ready to be more discerning and maybe I am willing to wait and see.

It may seem foolish, but my heart, my mind and my body want what they want. It doesn't make it right. In fact it makes it somewhat difficult to get on with it. I guess I know the final answer, but it doesn't stop me in my heart. Better to be alone than in bad company. This one will be tough to get over. And really, there are always one or two you never get over. This might be the second time I've felt this. The wanting something I can't have even though every fiber of me says yes I should have it. It feels right. I suppose it always have, since the beginning.

I keep dreaming about him. And the weird thing is that my dreams have been in the stages that the reality has followed. Passion, protection, distance. The dream I had last night was either a prophecy or a fantasy. I have not figured it out yet. I guess time will show me one way or the other. The dreams are so real. The sight, the feel, the conversations...there is nothing fantastical about them. The things happening in the dreams could and have happened in real life.

I miss him. And I don't know if the waiting and the wondering are the answer, but it's all I have right now.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

2008: The Year that Was

I took last night off from writing and now, I'm a little stuck. It wasn't my intention to skip it, I just got home super late and a little tipsy. I was pretty much useless, but it was good to unwind, see a movie and have a drink with friends. Now I'm sitting here, thinking about nothing and trying to come up with something. Perhaps I should ramble and see where it leads.

I'm ten days in to 2009 and I already believe it will be better than 2008. I've got a clean slate at work and a good sense of where I want that to go. I'm excited about writing again and feeling better about the prospect of a project that has a definite beginning, middle and end. I'm reconnecting with old friends and developing strong relationships with new ones. I really feel like I am coming into my own space, in my own time and way. That said, let's recap a little, shall we?

Check one, check two: I went to two open mics this year...and read. Kind of a big deal. I also gave a little speech at my boss's farewell roast. I killed. Pretty satisfying.

Let me entertain you: I had more parties and gatherings this year at home. Turns out I like playing hostess. Poodle even gave me a very Betty Draper apron with cherries on it. Speaking of Betty...

Mad about the men: I am totally hooked on Mad Men. I watched one episode on demand, and the next thing I knew it was five hours later. It is perfection. The writing, the design, the characters, wow...just wow. Don Draper is a bad, bad man. And I love him for it. If you haven't seen it, go out right now and get season one on DVD. Seriously.

Opening my eyes: I'm becoming something of an art collector. I'm interested in the process and the people who make the art. I'm going to more art openings and buying what I like and what I can afford. I guess hanging out in the art buildings with my friends in college is starting to rub off.

Bottom line: I'm still a serious person and a worrier, but I'm learning to let go more and enjoy my life here. Feels great.As Jenni and Patrice say, "enjoyable!"

I'll be back to my regular schedule tomorrow night, but right now I am going to get ready for a weekend away with old friends. Stay tuned for my Golden Globes report!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Back and Forth

I am standing in two worlds at once. Here I am, living this life I have created for myself while simultaneously mining the past I thought I had left behind. In the last few weeks, I have reconnected with a number of people I went to high school with and it's been great. People are posting old photos (the clothes and the hair!), telling old stories and roaming the virtual halls saying "HI!" The timing is interesting, especially since I am mining my memories for this memoir project. It's like I've brought these people back into my life with my thoughts.

As I said before, I knew a lot of these people all the way from kindergarten through senior year of high school. Many of us are part of what I call the "American Dream" Generation. Our parents came from other countries to start over in the US. Most of us were born in this country and are the youngest sibling, with brothers and sisters anywhere from five to fifteen years older. We are tied together by a connection to a place many of us have never been to through language, food, music, photos, families stories and hope. Hope that we would grow up, go to good schools, get good jobs, marry and create families. And, every December 31st, hope that next year we would return"home."

What I know about being a Cuban born in the US is that there is longing; a deep rooted desire to go back to a place we have never lived in, to be with people we don't really know. As a child, it was confusing to me. I wondered why my parents and their friends talked about going back. Wasn't it bad there? Isn't that why they left? Do I have to go too? I don't know anyone there. I like it here with the ice cream truck and Saturday morning cartoons. When I think about my one and only trip there, it all makes sense.

My father took me to Cuba when I was eight years old. I met my grandparents, my aunts, uncles, cousins, and my half-brother. I remember a lot of it, maybe because I knew there was a strong possibility that this was a one-shot deal. Here's what I remember the most: everything was in color. I have a pretty good idea of how Dorothy felt in the Wizard of Oz when she opened the door after landing in Munchkinland. I walked off that plane into the heat of Havana and WOW!I had only ever seen black and white photos of Cuba, so I suppose I got it in my head that everything there and white. Amazing.

We arrived at my maternal grandparent's house and, like any child that had been traveling all day, I told my father I was hungry. He relayed the message to my grandmother who asked, "What am I going to give her? She's American. Doesn't she only eat hamburgers and hot dogs?" "What do you have in the house?"
"Rice, black beans, pork and plantains."
"Put a plate of that in front of her and see what happens."

Apparently, my visit was a big deal. The gringa was coming to meet everyone! Word spread that I had arrived, because the house was full of people waiting to see me. Correction: the kitchen was full of people waiting to see if this American child would eat. Oh, I ate! Man, did I eat. We stayed for three weeks (standard allotted time for Cubans visiting Cuba). I met everyone my family had ever known, saw where my parents had lived and got to know my extended family. And I ate very well. My last meal in Cuba was arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) made especially for me by my mother's mother. I found out later that a neighbor lady had killed one of the chickens in my grandparents' backyard especially for my farewell meal. Hard core.

I realize now how important that trip was. I can't imagine how hard it was for my parents to leave that life and start over with nothing. But, the more I read and hear about what Cuba was like fifty years ago, the more I understand why they had to do it. I also know that, as much as they embraced the American lifestyle, they never really left the old ways behind, not in their hearts and not in the life they created here for me and my siblings. They couldn't be there, so they created as much of that world as they could here. The food, the club, the language, the music was all there for me to absorb. I soaked it up and I take it with me no matter where I go. And every time I hear Celia Cruz sing Guantanamera, I understand the longing to go home.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

New Year, New Direction

Today was a good day. The weather was crap, but it didn't deter me. Things are becoming clearer and I am beginning to see the possibilities. Call me cautiously optimistic.

I set aside the hurt inside me long enough to really say what was troubling me and I asked for an opportunity to take my professional life in a slightly different direction. It wasn't easy, but I did it because I needed to feel in some control of my destiny at work. I took some time over the holidays to think about what the changes at work could mean for me and I really believe this is my chance to tackle my job in a new way. It's exciting and a little scary, but it beats the hell out of what I was feeling before. In the end, I think it will be OK.

Between work and writing, I have much to do, so I need to get organized, manage my time and try not to be so hard on myself when I come up against some crap. Moderation is key here, I don't want to hit the wall again. I've been pushing myself, but I'm also trying to take a breath when I start to feel overwhelmed. My priorities are shifting and I need to know when to say no if I feel like taking on one more thing seems like too much. I also need to remember to have a life and not let the work consume me like it has for a long while. Luckily, my friends and family remind me to stop and have a laugh (and a drink). Cheers to that!