Thursday, December 29, 2005
During the course of this past year, I gave birth to myself. Again. Or I simply shed something, shook off a casing, a layer. It was a subtle switch but sometime during this year, I started to become the person I've always wanted to be.
I became a better friend, a better wife, a better worker. I've always tried my very hardest (all-my-might kind of hardest) at Mothering so not much improvement there. I became smarter. And more patient, more organized, tidier. More compassionate. I became more fun, more relaxed, less defensive.
There wasn't a grand moment that this all happened. I've been practicing a lot, to be this person, so I'm not sure when it just became natural. But when I stop to think about what I'm doing, where I am, how I'm acting, what I'm saying -- this is how I practice -- my chest just rings now. I stop and listen to it ring. It's euphoric. It doesn't stop.
Part of why I feel this way is because I stopped thinking I had to strive for better when what I have right in this moment is absolutely right. Who I am, what I do, how I look, where I live, who I love, everything I have is perfect even if it's not perfect. It is all perfect.
I don't waste time wondering anymore if I deserve this or not. I don't wait for the other shoe to drop. I realized the wondering and the waiting and the striving were part of some vanity; only a residual, a ghost, of my beforelife. I let it go. It's a waste of living and it's a waste of my freedom. I still wrestle the past, but The Person I've Always Wanted To Be doesn't hang her hat on the Abuse Lessons, doesn't sport sorrow like a deep accessory. She just tussles with it when it comes up. She pets it with honesty and doesn't let it act out. "It's ok." The Person I've Always Wanted To Be feels what she needs to feel and tells herself, It's ok. This is all scarier than it seems. Sometimes it's difficult to kick away a crutch. But it's all absolutely right.
The Best Decision
No one on planet Earth or yonder can convince me that all of the above doesn't have to do, IN LARGE PART, with the fact that I became a vegan. NO ONE. The clarity with which I now feel and think came on as if the sun peaked out from behind an impenetrable cloud. Like a film was stripped off my mind. Like a cork was unplugged to allow my true self to spill out. This cloudy film was not just wiped away from my physical being, but mental and emotional as well. Veganism is the best decision I've made not just in 2005, but since I allowed myself to fall in love with Husband almost 10 years ago. Both decisions have been grand life changers, perfect life enhancers.
The Best Job
With all due respect to my current cubicle which I've pretty much transformed into a bachelor apartment, my favorite job of 2005 was when I worked at Mother's Market, a health food store & cafe, for the first six months of the year. I was a cashier and I ordered nutritional bars. I really loved the job. Except for two things: It paid about a dollar an hour and I couldn't check my emails during the day. But other than that, a dream. I loved talking to all the eclectic customers because Mother's brought out the most diverse and most interesting people in the OC. Who knew Irvine had a Buddhist monastery or that there were large pods of South Africans that live here? I didn't until I worked at Mothers or Mudder's as Mina used to call it. I would ask customers what they were buying and why, what was it used for. I learned TONS. Tons, I say. And my bosses couldn't believe how quick and efficient I was. I thought, Hmm I just owned my own company -- or ran it into the ground which ever way you want to look at it -- so this scanning and making change business I've got! They also remarked how well I handled stress. I said, "I just came from an industry where brokers threatened to hunt you down and take your life if you fucked them over, sssooo this upset customer is not such a big deal." I loved working with all the hip vegan 20 year olds which is odd for me because generally I don't like anyone under 30 (except Mina & Maya of course), but these kids were great. I visited Mudder's with Maya yesterday and hugged everyone and bullshitted. I miss having a work environment that smells like wheatgrass and patchouli, seriously. They asked me if I wanted to come back to work part time which secretly I'd love to, but I can't live without day-time email and internet I've discovered. And nobody can live on a dollar an hour. However, Maya proclaimed she would work at Mudders as soon as she could. She even asked my old boss how old someone needed to be to work there.
The Best Year
This year has been the best year I've had in a long time. I am very thankful for that.
Thank you 2005 for being kind to me.
Happy New Year, Familia
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Mina and I then went to the book store for an hour, then to the arts & crafts store to stock up for a major project we planned on doing later in the afternoon. We then lunched at our favorite health food spot where Mina can demolish an entire whole wheat black bean and cheese burrito like a champ. We did our grocery shopping and then came home to take the Sisters Pug to the park.
When it came time for our art projects, we laid out newspapers and set up paints. We both knew what we wanted to do, and we started in on our individual projects without bothering each other. She didn't ask me what I was making and I didn't ask her why she needed to put on black lipstick to paint. Mina painted a pair of large wooden lips. And then she made an abstract placard to hang from her door. My art project is a bit, hmm, revealing? For me to explain means I have to reveal an embarrassing side of myself. A side that exists very minimally still. I won't say I'm completely rid of the characteristic, but it embarrasses me.
When the semiconductor industry took off, I made more money than I had ever seen. More money than anyone I knew had ever made. And because I had no concept of financial wisdom, I voraciously spent. Many call it a broker mentality to spend all that you earn, some call it ghetto mentality, but when you've never been able to blow money before, you blow it like a complete idiot. I did, at least. I spend it like I couldn't believe it was in my hands and I thought I had best spend it before I woke up. I followed a cookie-cutter path of obtaining what I thought someone with money is supposed to have mainly in the way of clothes and accessories. I couldn't believe how well made expensive clothes were; they fit and hung beautifully. I bought expensive make up that I felt made a difference. I bought Chanel sunglasses and Gucci shoes. Not a lot, but one pair of each and I snuggled them and cooed and petted them. I felt I had arrived, finally. After receiving a Christmas bonus in 1999, I decided to buy something that I had programmed myself to covet, a Louis Vitton tote. I was so nervous to have spent that much money on one item that I was fanatically protective of it. I vowed to keep the straps the pure beige color. I did my best to wear it like I had always had such luxurious things.
Then the semiconductor market dropped like a stone from the top of a building. The cushy checks evaporated and the down market bred tension and backstabbing. It all went from euphoric to foul. It all became a grind again. And the things that I had bought with labels and sky-high price tags sickened me. I was embarrassed to have been such a fool. I wasn't smart enough to sock away sufficient savings because I was blinded by fancy things. As we downsized our life, the Louis Vitton went to the back of the closet because it only reminded me that I had gotten caught up in such materialist bullshit. When I looked at the bag, I felt that maybe I didn't deserve to make a lot of money because I would only squander it. I am only beginning to feel differently.
Two weeks ago, I spilled soy creamer all up in my purse. I have been trying to buy all vegan stuff including clothes and accessories, which is more difficult than eating vegan, and I hadn't yet found a vegan purse that I liked. I was toting all my stuff in a huge canvas bag I received free with a magazine subscription, which was fine, but the bag was like a black hole. I'd spend ten minutes looking for my keys that were floating . . .around . . in . . .here . . .somewhere.
I decided to pull out the Louis V. because I needed a good purse and because part of my new mentality is to not waste anything. I also want to make peace with my mistakes. I wore the Louis V. a couple days ago, and still I was embarrassed. Not just because it reminds me of wastefulness, but because it's just not my style anymore (I'm not convinced it ever was.) So, yesterday I decided that my art project would be to make the Louis V. more Me. As I set my stray paints before me to deface a very expensive hand bag, my husband raised his eyebrows. Then, because he knows me so well, he said, "Fuck it. Have at it." He said, "Knowing you, people will want to know where to get one." I doubt that, but here's my Louis V., Madness style:
I just want to note that I still love fancy things. I'm not trying to front. I love a well-made piece. I love great jeans. But I finally realized that I only love funky unique items and not the expensive trendy crap. My embarrassment mainly came from feeling like I was a slave to designer items that I thought I should own just because I finally had a little money. My trepidation lingers when I think of how wasteful I was with my money instead of helpful.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Maya flies to see Blood Dad once a month and we trade off having Maya every other Christmas and Thanksgiving. She stays 6 long-ass weeks in the summer that nearly break me. But Blood Dad is sweet and thoughtful. He's very involved in Maya's life and he loves her very much. He was happy for me when I married and happy when I had Mina. He and his sweet wife just had a baby girl, and I was sincerely stoked for them too. Husband and BD are friendly without weirdness. I suspect they are a little jealous of each other – not of me, god no, but BD is jealous that Husband gets to spend the majority of time with Maya. Husband has known Maya since she was a year and a half years old and he’s a little jealous that her blood is not 100% his.
I am very close to BD's mother still, whom I call Mom. She loves Husband. Mina calls her Grandma, and Grandma has spent the night at our house on many occasions. Mina has spent a lot of time with Maya's Blood Family too in San Diego, where they and Grandma live, and they are all in love with her. Just like Maya is really close to Husband’s family in New York. And now all of Blood Dad's wife's family, step and blood, have embraced both Maya & Mina in one big It's-Takes-A-Village hug. It is The Ideal Situation, and it warms my heart.
But every time Maya steps on that plane, especially to celebrate a holiday elsewhere, all the droves of wonderful extended family fall away, and I ache because my baby is leaving me. Even though we have a wonderful village, I've always considered Maya only mine. I felt she was born only for me. Every single family member that loves her certainly feels differently, I'm sure, but I don't care. That girl is my heart.
And I don't want her to go to Vegas for Christmas. Husband doesn't either. Mina cries when she leaves. Of course we all know it's just part of our ideal arrangement.
We opened all our Mami & Papi gifts yesterday. We had our little Rivera Christmas before Maya had to leave. It was fun and sweet. We made vegan chocolate chip cookies and watched The Last Dragon which is almost as rad now as it was in 1985. Husband told the girls about his huge crush on Vanity. And I told them how hot I thought Bruce Leroy was. The presents were a big hit. Mina's favorite was the bright red sparkly gymnastic leotard! She squealed when she saw it. I asked Maya what her favorite present was and she said, "All of them! I always love your presents, Mami." Ug. Don't leave me, Maya!
I always tell her that before she gets on the plane, especially when she leaves for her long summer stay. I whisper, "Maya, I'll tell Daddy that I don't know where you are. I'll just tell him, 'Hmm, Maya? Maya who?' And then you can just stay with Mami." And she always says, "I don't want to leave you either, Mami, but I'm looking forward to seeing everybody." She's so reasonable. "I know, baby," I say, "And you'll have a great time. Hug and kiss everyone for me, and I'll see you in a bit." And I keep my chin up until the heavy doors close and my baby is gone in the air to her other life.
Monday, December 19, 2005
I want so badly to become a good vegan cook.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
I said, "Mina! That's great. You're in an art show."
She said, "I am?"
I looked at her. "That's what the invitation says. This one. The one you made?"
She said, "Oh yea."
According to Maya, Mina is in the art room every day. Maya says Mina is great at art, but we all know that. The art teacher entered one of Mina's paintings in the art show. The teacher was fond of this painting because when the other budding artists painted pictures of dolphins and birds and butterflies, Mina painted a picture of a bear's claw clinging to a log. Deep. And awesome! Which is what the ribbon says.
We appreciated the other art.
Maya, in the fleeting Santa hat, and her best friend Lola appreciating the art. Lola was a partcipant too. She said, "I lost. Like Mina." Lola isn't too familiar with The Bright Side. I said, "You guys didn't lose. Read the ribbon. You're awesome!"
Here's the first place winner. That's awesome too!
Here's what I found in the trash can of the bathroom. Mina is already bucking the institutional side of art. She doesn't need a fucking certificate telling her she's an artist, apparently. I said, "Baby, why did you throw that away?" She said, "I dunno." But I knew. I looked at her and winked. Yeah, baby. Fuck the man. And then she said, "Do you have any candy?"
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
At least she sings now. Up until last year she just sat in the sea of singers, not upset, not trying to get down, but just sat there and listened to her friends sing songs. She'd bop her head and look around at her classmates, giving them moral support. She'd look into the audience, just appreciating the moment and the scene. And when the song was over, she would clap emphatically.
Guess who's never been like that? Mmhm, Maya. During her first recital in pre school, the teacher held out a microphone in front of the kids as they sang. During the song, Maya inched closer and closer to the microphone until she was trying to wrestle it away from the teacher. Her mouth would be all on the microphone yelling out an ear-blasting You Better Watch Out. Nothing like a three year old's amplified heavy breathing. Here's Maya now. Check her out with the gorgeous theater face and the "caroling hands." Her recital was last week, but believe me when I tell you that I have known every single song by heart since Thanksgiving. If I didn't hear "Mami, listen to this . . ." three times a night since mid-November, I would check her temperature. Maya's the type that if she messes up one syllable of a song, she'll start again from the beginning. She will also ask, "Do you think my singing sounds better this time [sings entire song] or this time [sings same song entirely]?" I'd say, "They both sound pretty good, baby." And she'd reply, "Let me do it again then until one really sounds better." I would then muffle my soft weeping.
Maya's recital was held in the gym of the local high school because someone thought it would be a good idea to combine all the neighboring elementary schools, the middle school and high school recitals into one! Hmm, gee, no, not a good idea. So, they sardined us into a stanky gym on wobbly fold out chairs all at one level insuring that no one beyond row three could see shit. There were twenty long rows that stretched the length of the gym. We were shit out of luck. So Husband and I just had to stare at all the other parents. It was then I realized that the lighting in the gym was so hideous it could've made Jennifer Lopez look like a hag. It accentuated eye bags and dark circles, defined lines creases; made everyone look like they had some kind of skin disease. It was like a white, black light. Everyone's hair shone an orange tint. Holiday nails came to life and jean jumpers with embroidered santas on them looked technicolor. I was trippin! After the show had started, a dad strutting in wearing full Marine dress-up clothes -- with the sharp blue nero jacket and the navy pants with the sweet red stripe down the side? He had a crew cut and metals and the shiniest black shoes on planet earth. And since none of us parents could see our children singing, all five billion of us just stared at the Marine walking with puffed chest down the aisle. With the lighting he glowed and a haze of color trailed him. I waited for some gung ho parent to start the Slow Clap for him.
So this recital kinda sucked. I told Maya genuinely, though I may regret it later, "I liked it better when you sang the songs by yourself."
But no recital has been the same since the girls stopped going to Anneliese. Anneliese is a school founded by a funky German woman that emphasizes creativity in learning. Both girls attended from age two through kindergarten, and it is the raddest school ever; dream-like really. For those of you that do not know the OC area, there is a canyon carved in the hills of Laguna Beach that starts at the footsteps of the beach and runs about six miles inland. It is a fantastic piece of curvy road sandwiched by palm-filled lush hills and sporadic fields where permanent easels are set up for the painting clubs that grace the area. On the east side of the canyon, Anneliese is tucked away against the hills occupying an old Mormon school that was originally built in 1888. Since Anneliese took it over, she has built a bird sanctuary housing breath-taking peacocks and lovely swans. There is also a pig on the grounds and two llamas named Cosmo and Como Se Llama. Apart from the main school house that looks like a mission, tiny round bungalows were built to hold only one class. A long circular desk lines the wall. All the students face each other in this circle. These bungalows are so heart-warmingly wonderful, I don't know one adult that doesn't want to play School in there for the rest of their lives. Other gorgeous touches of the school: Mexican-tiled sinks, children's art framed from floor to ceiling; wood wagon-wheel chandeliers and home-cooked vegetarian meals. At Anneliese, they teach in five different languages, German, French, Spanish, Japanese and English. I slapped myself every single day of the seven years we were part of their community. I shed small tears reminiscing, but my heart swells near capacity with the fact that the girls were able to start their school careers with such a goddamn bang.
And the holiday recitals at Anneliese were off the chain. We would cram into the main building that was decorated like a movie set with large, fresh garlands lacing the chandeliers and children's stain glass art hanging in the windows causing colorful casts of light. With parent-packed wood benches on persian rugs and the smell of sour kraut and apple cider in the air, the children would fill the stage and sing holiday favorites in different languages. One year they sang a holiday song in Swahili. The individual teachers have complete creative license and they would teach the kids according to their own culture which translated into the Mexican Hat Dance (see Mina in costume), a Peruvian number or an old French song. Sometimes the teacher would teach the children popular songs. I am completely choked up now thinking about the year Maya sang I Believe I Can Fly complete with sign language. Or when Mina's class did Iz's version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow? IN CHILDREN'S VOICES? Waterworks for days, now even. It was all so beautiful beyond compare.
We pass by Anneliese every day in the canyon. Every day we say, "Hi Anneliese" just like every time we see the ocean there is a female chorus in the car, "Good Morning Ocean!" It feels good to salute things that have been good to you
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Mina: "I have a wiener. I have a wiener." She points at her crotch.
Maya: "For your information, you do not have a wiener. You have a VA-CHINA."
Mina: "I have a china. I have a china." She points at her crotch, dancing.
Me: "Don't be showing your china off at school."
She's gonna P-I-iss-ed, but I have to introduce you do my friend Green Whale. I've only known her a few months, but I have grown very fond of her in this short time. She is passionate and fascinating. And now she has started a blog! Her writing is interesting and beautiful, each post like a polished pearl.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Saturday, December 10, 2005
The reigning champ of the TKD talent show is Heath who just happens to be Maya's nemesis. They came up together in the program and got their black belts together. They spar against each other constantly. They have similar personalities. And I think they have a little thing for each other. Yo, if I was Maya's age, I'd be in love with this kid! Maya usually isn't shy about admitting her crushes, but they both get a hard time at the studio if they're too chummy so they keep any kind of likie likes on the down low.
But, uh, check out Heath & Maya at the holiday party not keeping their thing on the down low:
The first year Maya decided to enter the talent show, she just KNEW she had it in the bag. She did a half-assed version of some last-minute lip synch. Then Heath came up, put on some underground house music and did Euro hiphop bboy moves that dropped our jaws. Maya seethed. Especially when he won first place. She vowed to kick his butt the next year. But the next year produced similar results. This year Husband came up with the brilliant idea that I teach Maya and Mina a short merengue routine to dance together with the hopes of bringing down the house. The girls learned it quickly and practiced diligently, especially Maya who was enamored with the prospect of sticking to Heath this year. When we showed up at the party Maya rushed Heath and asked what he was going to do for the talent show. He said, "I'm not doing it this year." Maya said, "Oh great. The year I was going to beat you you're not in it." At least she's not looking for the easy win.
The girls danced really well. It kills me when their little booties swish around merengue style. They were a tad robbed with a third place finish but, feh, what are you gonna do? The Tae Kwon Do crowd is a conservative one and beating a decent violin sonata with some children shaking asses is a tough call. But here's the final dip:
Not twelve hours after this holiday party, we were getting ready for Mina's first little gymnastics event. It was more like a demo, but they called it a Mini-Olympics. Mina didn't give a shit what it was, as long as she could do fifty more cartwheels and got to get up on that beam again. The ages at the Olympics ranged from 5-7 and their outfits were as diverse as professional national team gear to full ballet tutus to pajama bottoms. Watching these kids enthusiastically show off their new skills punctuated by the classic arched pose gets me a little vklempt. Especially the ones with the pajama bottoms or the glasses or the full booty cheek hanging out of their leotard or the ones that run full speed to accept their awards with great intensity -- I love them. All participants received an award which I thought was cool. Mina did great. Only months after starting the gymnastics program she is already long on mad cartwheels and hand stand skills. I love this picture in the winner’s circle:
Immediately after the Mini-Olympics, the girls and I packed in the car and drove up to the LA Zoo to meet Mandy & Melissa for some animal holiday fun. When a zoo is boasting reindeer, you can't miss that. The reindeer pen was situated next to the entrance and as we stared at the surprisingly small animals Mina said, "Mami, these are the ones that were mean to Rudolph." Which only inspired Mandy, Melissa and I to interrogate the reindeer. "Why were you guys so mean to Rudolph, huh?" "I mean, Rudolph didn't do anything to anybody." And on and on. There was a crafts booth set up to color paper reindeer rack hats and after my girls made conservative versions, they took a red magic marker and markered their noses bright red. Cool, good idea. Rudolph Coalition in the house.
There are not a lot of things more fun to me than adding dialogue to a slice of animal life. The animals were game as there seemed to be a little love in the air at the zoo. They were territorial and few were uh, engorged with the idea of love. In the tapir pen, the male seemed to want to get his groove on and Melissa said, "Is nature about to happen right in front of us?" Mina said, "That's a boy alright." I said to the tapirs, "Could you move your nature to the back of the pen so you don't traumatize my child?" But the female tapir wasn't really having it so of course that started this voice over for the scene:
"Hey, baby let me hollar at you for a minute."
"I'm trying eat, beat it."
"Lemme just sniff your butt for a while then."
And . . .on and on.
The red ape exhibit has a new little baby. She's a big hit, and she does not disappoint. She kept climbing up the chain link fence while the mom sat feigning unconcern, but the mom would look up instinctively every three seconds. Until she couldn't take it any longer. She sighed and climbed slowly up after the baby. She pried the little monkey fingers from the fence, no easy task, and with her baby on her chest and a little arm between her lips, she climbed back down. The endearment of the scene tapped at the heart, but you could also see the frustration of a mother's constant vigil right in those mama red ape eyes.
Here are my little red-nose apes using Auntie Melissa as jumpy house:
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
My grandmother loved me fully without hang ups or resentment. She was kind and passive and gushed over me like no one else. As a child, I loved her so much it hurt. And I never talk about her. Ever. Which is odd. I know I'm only protecting a relationship that I fear might've been imaginary. In 23 years I have not mourned her fully, only in dribbles. I can't seem to articulate to those closest to me what she meant. I can't seem to unlock the box where I keep her. I don't want someone telling me it was different; that she wasn't the life preserver I make her out to be.
And losing her at 15 -- HER, of all people, when everyone else was dead too or mean -- was a cruel fucking trick.
As I pry open the box, if only to show my daughters how I learned to love, here are ten things about my grandmother:
* I called her Mama. Though my mother insisted I call her Nanny. I mumbled "Nanny" in my mother's presence, but said Mama during all other times. I still think of "Mama" as our private secret, and I flush a little as I type the word.
* She was 36 when I was born, my mother 18. I am thankful I didn't join the Mother-At-18 Club.
* She had the roughest hands. I would lie on her lap as she stroked my forehead with severely calloused fingers. I would've rather died from having all my face skin scraped off than to have her stop.
* She introduced me to cinnamon-sugar toast, which to this day I love to death. She would make me shakers of the stuff in case I wouldn't be able to see her for periods of time. Her house always smelled like toast and coffee, the best food smell I can think of. Now, every weekend I make myself cinnamon-sugar toast almost subconsciously and the oddest thing -- I'm just kinda realizing -- is that I never make it for the girls. I just make it for me, ritualistically. I don't even explain what kind of comfort I feel while enjoying my weekend breakfast.
* She had coal black hair until the age of 23 when she grew a thick silver lock above her forehead. Though her entire head turned all white quickly after, she dyed it black. But she always kept the original silver streak in front.
* She didn't tell anyone she had cancer. It's presumed she had it about three years before she died. Maybe her husband knew, but she wouldn't let him tell anyone. She had refused aggressive treatment. I had said in my 10 Things About Me that she came to me in a dream only weeks before she died, when no one knew about the cancer. She was bloated to the size of a pregnant woman. I sat and watched her till a dirt lot in the dream. We always were comforted by our connection. But the image of her trying so hard to make something of the barren lot haunts me. It breaks my heart.
* Most every memory I have of her is non verbal. Her being affectionate. Her gardening. Me staring at her.
* When I was five, my mother left the U.S. to follow a boyfriend with me in tow. I did not see my grandmother for over two years. We didn't even talk on the phone. My mother's deep troubles were wedged between us.
* I didn't cry at her funeral. My mother fell completely apart which astounded me. My aunt was in hysterics and wouldn't view her body. And I thought at that young age, She's not even in there, in that body. Why is everyone so sad NOW? When my grandfather, an ex Marine sergeant who served at Iwo Jima stood over her casket, he did not move for five long minutes. This is a man plagued with meanness, and he stood there full of what I thought was remorse. Remorse that he had treated her so poorly, called her dumb and treated her like trash. I almost cried then. It seemed so tragic to be that regretful afterwards.
*After the funeral, my mother told me that she did not want to be a mother anymore, and I still don't know what to say about that.
* My mother had a reunion of sorts last year where my mother's best friend from high school and my aunt attended. I flew up for the occasion too, and when I walked into the dinner party my mother's old friend gasped. She said, "She looks exactly like your mom!" And my mother nodded looking at me. My aunt said yes too. I was 37 years old at this party, and I had never been told that before. I don't think I look exactly like her, but I know I have a similar presence. But it pained me that they all knew what I always thought had been my imagination.
* * *
I miss you, Mama.
Thank you for everything.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Sunday, December 04, 2005
My coworkers and bosses are nice people; nicer than any other semiconductor brokers I've encountered after working thirteen years in this dynamic and often shady industry. But I discovered last night that the people I work with, no matter how mellow and family-like they seem, can still party like broker rock stars. It all started out innocently enough (see picture to the left) with a nice dinner. My friend and company controller Teri even had the hotel hook up a few vegan dishes for me. Who knew the Hyatt could rock such a killer wild wheat berry salad with cranberries and diced veggies? YUM! So, yes, innocent; lovely sit-down dinner with candles and a christmas tree twinkling in the corner. Soft holiday music played in the background. Workers cleaned up nicely and conversed in tones much lower than our normal, weekday roar. Spouses were present and I think we were trying to pull off an air of civility when the spouses all know how we are. One sales guy’s wife confided, "Y'know, I call him the Thrasher at home too."
After dinner, to my surprise, we played a version of White Elephant, the gift game where a name is drawn and then the person opens a wrapped, unknown present or they steal a gift previously opened. A gift could be taken twice before it had a permanent home. We started to loosen up at this point, acting more like ourselves which was due in part to our friend, the Open Bar. The White Elephant gifts were stupid nice! Bad-ass digital cameras, mini stereos, little flat screen TV's. And every time a gift was stolen we would howl loudly and yell at the Taker and laugh at the guy that just got his shit took. We screamed when the top salesguy snaked a digital camera from the warehouse/janitor -- RUTHLESS! -- but we cheered when the same warehouse/janitor dude permanently scored the 60GB! iPod, the grand prize of the evening. Shit talking was free-flowing. Like, when one of the buyers ended up with a tool set, we shouted, "SoNSo's a Tool!" Incidentally, guess what I got?? A food processor with a killer blender attachment just like I had wanted for my vegan chef quest!! (And I KNOW Kim put two of those in the White Elephant so that I would get one. I KNOW YOU DID, KIM! And thanks so much.) I had JUST bought a good blender to replace my old one with the blades as dull as limp celery. The newly-bought blender is still in the box, but will go to good use too*.
After the gift portion of the program, we huddled around Open Bar, our friend, and talked about office things like, oh, Pubic Hair, To Groom or Not to Groom which turned so lively that we had a full crowd involved favoring Grooming 8-1. Feeling spirited, we were all spontaneously bummed that there was no DJ or cover band to help channel our escalating sense of partiness. A group of us decided to venture out to other company parties going on in the hotel at the same time to see if they were crashable. Four of us went to a little party with a good DJ and danced to SuperFreak. Bor, my funny-ass next cube neighbor who always brings up the raddest 70's references at work like Shields & Yarnell, and who was drunk off of Jim Beam and Vermouth (whoa), left us half way through the song and snagged a festive center piece on his way out. He ran out looking like the Heisman trophy. We then floated into the Grand Ballroom that was the size of a football field. A band was on break, but that didn't stop Bor from running across the miles of dining area, across the huge dance floor and hopping on stage to see if the mic was live. It wasn't or we may have been arrested right then and there.
We went back to our own party room to discover that pods of our company had also gone out to discover more action, including Husband who was now partying hard with our broker crowd. I went back to the Grand Ballroom to discover Boss B and SJ involved in most uproarious Dance Off. The band was playing a decent version of the holiday favorite, AC/DC's Back in Black and Boss B started to do a Blues Brothers fancy foot dance until he flopped down right onto the floor. I mean, the man kinda bounced off his side. I was dumbfounded until SJ -- these are men in their 40's -- slid across the floor on his belly, arms outstretched over his head. He then preceded to do, quite possibly, the funniest holiday-party solo dance in the history of man. He sashayed around the gigantic dance floor, interweaving between the real guests of the party. He pirouetted and posed to give the Rock On sign. The Open Bar had unleashed the free spirit of a typically conservative sales guy. He started pointing like a motivational speaker to other dancers in the crowd. "You. You. You." At this point half of his shirt was untucked and the real party goers had cleared room for him. He turned up the juice now that he had the ENTIRE ballroom enraptured and he RAN the perimeter of the dance floor with his hand outstretched to high five anyone that would bite, like he had just hit a home run. I seriously nearly peed my pants.
Finally, all of us ended up at the Little Party with the Good DJ. The DJ announced, "It looks like this company just got a bunch of new employees." We formed a Soul Train circle that even Husband entered and did his thang. We hopped around and laughed a ton. I did the Robot . . .We danced with other people from the party including a woman that apparently fell in love with me . . .maybe I'm exaggerating, but she kissed me and shouted in my face, "YOU'RE A BAD ASS AND I LOVE YOU."
Here's a picture of SJ continuing his shenanigans by trying to dance with some lady he didn’t know. She doesn't look too thrilled about it, but that look on SJ face kept me bustin' up for hours. Fyi, he was seen the next morning strolling through the hotel lobby in a bathrobe. This is a guy that sends out motivational emails every work day about Hope and You Are a Winner which in general grates on my last nerve, but after Saturday night, I have a new love for this guy.
We left the party when I realized Husband had contracted a slur. We are not drinkers and we have only seen each other tipsy a handful of times. I've only been flat-out wrecked one time in our 10years together which was the night of my 34th birthday. We had gone to a flamenco/tapas bar in Long Beach with some friends.
On that birthday I did which of the following:
a) Climbed on stage to flamenco with the resident man-orexic flamenco stud.
b) Double fisted cosmos for a good portion of the night.
c) Verbally accosted people on the street as Husband rushed me to our car.
d) Vomited violently on the front lawn of the most quietest of suburban streets. It was like vomiting into a megaphone inside a stone church.
e) All O' the Above. (Correct!)
So, when I realized Husband was blitzed, it was time to go. The drunker he got, the more pictures he took. Just snapped them left and right without looking into the viewer. "I enjoy candid shots," he slurred. About 450 pictures are of the tops of people’s heads and the ceiling, but some came out pretty funny like this one of Boss B bum rushing the camera.
Or of this one, which is how I spent most of the night, doubled over, laughing.
We stumbled upstairs and Husband hugged the toilet for a bit and I feel asleep chuckling.
When we awoke, this was the view from our balcony:
Thanks to The Job for a great night!
*So, the new blender . . . I had decided that instead of buying a ton of presents for family and friends, we would Adopt A Family for the holidays and blow all our Christmas money on them. Coincidentally, after I bought my new blender, I received the Wish List from our adopted family. The mom asked for . . . a blender. By the by, the kids asked for a school back pack, deodorant and hair gel. That’s it. Funk that. I’m hooking their shit up as best I can.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Coincidentally, a couple we know from the OC was also staying at our lush resort because the mother in law -- let's call her Lady Meow -- lives directly across the street from the resort, and she was hosting Thanksgiving 2005. Lady Meow is pure Upstate NY Money that has retired in the Cali desert with her bump on the log husband. But we'll get back to her later. So, our friends, the couple, GMoney and LBoogie asked us to go to an adjacent hotel bar that is apparently HAPPENING. GMoney and LBoogie have been to this bar a few times and praised the awesomeness of the cover band, a local favorite. Husband and I were giddy. We are master people watchers and together we think we are the funniest commentators alive.
We got to the bar at 8:50, just before the band was to go on. The place was PACKED. People were nearly shoving to get tables and seats. I saw the easel holding the band's picture before entering. "The Art of Sax" it read. With a picture of these guys. Husband and I looked at each other with widened eyes thrilled about the great times that lie ahead. GMoney & LBoogie elbowed their way to an empty table and we let the Crowd Staring With Commentary begin! Oh, this crowd did not disappoint. The level of middle aged and older corniness was epic and euphoric. The vacationing OC'ites were definitely in the house. OC men wear Tommy Bahama shirts like their life depends on it. They thank god the day these were produced because it takes the guess work out of dressing themselves. It is Granimals for grown men. The OC women and the Palm Desert women merged with their style so I couldn't tell where one started and the other ended, but let's just say a lot of gold and surprisingly, the leather mini skirt is making a mad come back. A friend of GMoney's joined us at our table and he said, "My mom should be here later. She's classic Palm Desert." I said, "What's that?" He said, "You know, five boob jobs, platinum hair, dark leather skin. Lots o jewelry." I don't know what it was about the women at this place, but they were feeling S-E-X-Y. Like, on exactly their 50th birthday they knew they were the cat's pj's. They knew they could land most of the dudes in this joint. And no matter how much plastic surgery or make up or gold jewelry or hair shellac or orange tanning spray, that kind of confidence is hot. It was the aggressiveness that was a tad comedic.
The moment the Dave Koz wannabee placed the sax reed to his lips the crowd stampeded the parquet dance floor. Art O' Sax played all the wedding reception favorites: Celebration, Brick House, etc. etc. Husband and I were momentarily speechless because we didn't know where to start. Our heads swiveled from the slinky, strutting cougars to the stiff, money-dripping Tommy Bahamas. Dave Koz II, who seemed to be the leader of the band, wore a bright red satin button down, flowing and unbuttoned uncomfortably low. Not only was he the front man, but he seemed to be the band schmoozer and sales guy. He smiled exaggeratedly, danced onto the crowded dance floor with the sax, played bars to woman who swooned and flirted competitively. Women in their 60's shimmied in gold lamee shells with matching scrunchies and naughtiness in their eyes, and I thought, Rock On. Dave Koz had competition, however. The bassist of the band who wore a white straw hat over a gheri-curled pony tail and a white track suit with camouflaged sleeves was jockeying for popularity. We noticed that he had his own female following on his side of the room. And we realized that there must be a nightly Ass Off between the members of The Art Of Sax. Let's just say, the numbers must be big. These guys are raking in palm desert ass like it’s low-hanging fruit. We saw Koz wave coyly to someone across the dance floor just by wiggling four outstretched fingers. Sort of how Vince Vaughn did in the final scene of Swingers. "Oh, you want to play little baby games? I got your baby games. I'm gonna get more leathery ass than the base player tonight."
At one point I announced my theory that you can do the Robot to any song of any genre. The song playing at the moment of this announcement was We Are Family by Sister Sledge, an old favorite of mine. Husband said, "I dare you to hit the dance floor right now with the Palm Desert Crew and do the Robot." I stood and said, "That's no dare at all!" And we cruised to the dance floor next to a leopard-skin clad Eartha Kitt look-a-like. I looked at Husband sweetly and then did my best Robot complete with the dead-arm swing and some pop-lockin for good measure. Husband howled. Eartha Kitt grimaced and had her partner dance her away from us. Apparently Eartha can do swing dancing to any song from any genre.
Because it was so crowded, the tables and chairs were all crammed together. Squeezing through was a bit of an effort. As we all talked at the table, a woman in her mid 50's with a stretched face and an ash blonde bob tried to squeeze behind LBoogie. She faced GMoney as she did so and she took an extremely slow time getting by. She burned a hole in GMoney's face as she stared at him. She mouthed, "Excuse me," with the wickedest of smiles and GMoney flushed beet red. As soon as she left we fell out, shocked by the balls-out aggressiveness. We yelled, "GODDAMN! LBoogie, you better hang on to your man before he's cougar meat!"
P.S. This is all fun and games when it ain't yo man. Which brings me back to Lady Meow. We have met her many times before because she visits G & L regularly, especially on holidays. And it's a big, running joke that she is in love with my husband. It's not a joke; it's the glaring, desperate truth. I can't blame her. He's fine as hell. He's madly and manly confident in a way that drives me bananas. And Lady Meow too apparently. She is so flamboyant with him, flapping her arms about with her silk or cashmere sweater draped around her shoulders and her 24k gold bobbles glistening from her sagging earlobes. Her nose is carved a shade too thin, but her eyes are bright blue and sparkly, charming even which she turns on fiercely for Husband. The thing is she completely ignores my presence. She loves to reminisce about New York with him like it's an inside joke, like nobody but they have ever been to New York, and she never makes eye contact with me. She barely squeaks out a hello. It's all about kibitzing with Husband with the arm touching and the tousled laughing at every comment out of his mouth. I always think, Is this comical or should I knock a grandma the fuck out?
Lady Meow showed up at the Art O’ Sax bar that night not knowing we would be there. She spotted Husband from across the dance floor and said loudly, "OH, You're the only one I recognized!" as her son in law sat idly by, shrugging at me. LBoogie sat next Husband and Lady Meow was on the other side of LBoogie and when L hit the dance floor I whispered to Husband, "It's only a matter of time." Sure enough she scootched over one seat nuzzling up to Husband and told him AGAIN the story of how she went to the Final Fours tournament when Syracuse and Carmelo Anthony represented. I've tried to hop in the conversation once before because no one loves college basketball more than me, but she dismissed me in an old-fashioned way, seemingly saying, "Let me hear what the men folk have to say about this." Husband acts oblivious and humors her. Which I think is sweet and yet it irks me at the same time. I just completely ignore her now too and let her get her rocks off, but if she thinks I don’t have an eye on her Grand Cougar ways, ooo, then she don't know nothin 'bout me.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Self Portrait Tuesday
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Once we stayed in Lake Tahoe with friends. We stayed in a sick lake house with like, three thousand electrical outlets, far from rouging it. One night I attended a fiction reading across the lake, and when I returned to the house about midnight, I found the house locked. Everyone was asleep. I decided to check all the doors but as I rounded the far side of the house, it was so dark that I started imagining bears and Jason and fucking flying squirrels -- I don't know what the fuck -- but let's just say I'm happy their wasn't a video tape of me sprinting (HIGH STEPPIN'!) back to my car with a high-pitched squeal in my throat.
I opened my car door and heard major rustling in the garbage bins next to where I was parked and I dove head first into the car. I redialed Husband's phone 40 times which he must've had on vibrate, and I wondered if I could sleep in the car with the temperature in the low 40's. Could I get a room at one in the morning in the sleepy Lake Tahoe town? Out of the trash bins came two raccoons the size of boars. And the buggers sat just outside my car door. I thought of every Animal Planet show I had ever seen. Had any been entitled When Raccoons Attack? I didn't think they were aggressive towards humans. Unless they were rabid. I opened the car door to scare them off and when they just stared at me without moving, I concluded that these were indeed rabid. After 40 minutes, right before I was about to head to the local 7-11 and pull a weird all nighter, Husband called back and finally let me in the house. I pretty much jumped from the hood of the car to the threshold, over Mr. Rabid Raccoon. So, you see, I love nature. I'm just a little scared of Her. And She smells fear.
So, I spent my Thanksgiving vacation in a chichi desert resort where they were laid back about kids and dogs and they handed me a glass of water with limes every 50 yards and dabbed my brow if I wanted and called me Mrs. Rivera because they didn't know that I'm a dorky nobody that is fairly new to -- and always surprised by -- this lifestyle. I always feel like I'm infiltrating. However, we all had a great time. I hung out by the pool with my homemade hummus and raw crackers. I got a facial and took a eucalyptus steam and an outdoor jacuzzi and hung out in a robe for an hour reading a magazine in the locker room. "Would you like a chilled wash cloth, Mrs. Rivera?" I thought, Me, Mrs. Rivera? Then blushed and bowed, "Yes, thank you." I worked out every day and read the paper and pretty much did nothing else. I do feel giddy about this kind of treatment. And sometimes a little guilty too like, am I perpetuating an oppressive caste society or am I supporting jobs? Uh, I tip well for what it's worth. And I know when I was on the other side, I appreciated that. But seriously, how much waste do resorts like these generate? Ug. I didn't let them change the sheets or towels when we were there and figured that was a small contribution in conservation. Wasn't it? But I quelled my concerns a bit by concluding that this type of relaxation and renewal is good for the soul and allows me to do good things for others.
I did some Nature appreciation too. There is something cleansing about the desert. The sky seems bigger there and the mountains are always more crisply outlined and colored in brighter oranges and deeper purples. I find the desert foliage interesting and beautiful.
We plan to come to this resort again next year for our Second Annual Lazy, I Mean Renewing Thanksgiving, for which I'm down. But I also decided while I was there -- while I was sleeping by the pool with an umbrella'ed ice tea and an untouched book next to me - that in 2006 I would like to try a real camping trip. I figure if part of my vegan reasoning is to be kind to the Earth, I might want to get to know Her a little better.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Friday night we had reservations for Millennium which is as fancy-pants as any conventional swank restaurant. I had read amazing things about this place and I knew that during my weekend visit they were offering a set, four-course menu featuring winter squashes with organic wine pairing. I just fainted. Excitedly, I told my husband this before I left and he said -- deadpan even for him -- "yipee."
When we got to the restaurant, the regular menu looked so good that we chucked the Winter Squash Jubilee option aside. The crowd was classically eclectic. From Bay Area professor types to tattooed teens. I loved them all, and we caught eyes, almost nodded, knowing we knew the secret to life. The ambiance was -- I don't know, I was too excited about the food; wood bar I think, tables, yadi yadi. I forgot to say that before we went to Millennium, we stopped at a hoydee toydee bar a block away and I had an infused vodka cucumber gimlet or two. WOWOWOWOW. Forget it. Betsy had an elderberry martini. And Jim had a tarragon spritzer served in a banana leaf cone. I made that last drink up. But you would've believed me with the crazy almost pretentious combos on the menu. They were delicious, however. OK, BACK TO MILLENNIUM . . . let's just say that Betsy & Jim are not shy about food consumption. It's like unbelting your pants before you eat, knowing. It was liberating in many ways to know that we were about to THROW DOWN. We ordered five, yes five, appetizers, three entrees, a bottle of vegan organic wine, three desserts and coffee. Mmmhmm, yes we did and we ate every last morsel.
Appetizers: Herb encrusted oyster mushrooms w/ persimmon chutney. Right off the bat you get an understanding of what kind of night was in store. This dish tasted like calamari but better. Two words: Persimmon. Chutney. K? Off the chain. Next, curried eggplant with nan topped with tiny diced cucumbers and mint. CRAZY. Then, raw beet "ravioli." - I can't even describe this, but let's just say: HOLY.
Entrees: Jim had the pumpkin tamal with parsnip bisque. AAHH! Betsy had a lentil crepe stuffed with curried garbanzos. JESUS. I had a mini squash stuffed with spiced -- well, squash and vegetables topped with pineapple. LORD HAVE MERCY.
Dessert: Jim: some chocolate torte thing. MINDBLOWING. Betsy: pumpkin "creme" brule. UNBELIEVABLE. Me: Quince crisp with caramel "ice cream." NOT EVEN FAIR.
So, I can easily say this was the best meal I've had in my entire life. I was stuffed and I don't like to be stuffed, but I gladly stuffed my face at this place. I cried real tears leaving Millennium. "Bye Millennium, I love you . . ." I wondered if I could justify flying up again just to eat one more meal there.
Saturday night Betsy, her friend Betsy (yes 'nother Betsy) and I went to Cafe Gratitude, a raw restaurant. I knew I would go bananas over Millennium and though I was interested in eating at Cafe Gratitude, I was not clicking my heels in anticipation. I thought, This raw phenomena is interesting, but whatever. I can only mentally process my vegan commitment. Thinking about going raw too tires me. The ambiance in this place was like getting wrapped up in an earth friendly organic-cotton comforter. You suddenly feel more relaxed stepping into the little cafe. The waitress almost hugged me when we walked in and the air was so thick with -- hmm . . . goodness? Love? Drug-induced gas? that I just about hugged her back. Not kidding. We were speaking nose to nose, personal space was no more. The lighting was so warm and orange. The paintings colorful and joyful, full of laughing children. Creeping Charlies were hung, and blond dreadlocks were tied up neatly in hemp scarves. The menu was written all in self affirmations. Instead of ordering Joe's Slop Plate or the Number Twelve, all the dishes were named: I Am (Fill In the Blank). Outside of this restaurant it would feel silly to say "I'll have the I Am Spectacular and the I Am Happy with a side of the I Am Giving," but here it's safe to let your scared little inner hippie run free. It felt great. And after you order they say, "Ok, You Are Dazzling and You Are Bad Ass." I made that last dish up. That's just what my menu would say.
Appetizers: Young Coconut Curried Soup with shreds of zucchini and tiny tomatoes. I didn't think I'd like cold soup but: TO DIE. We also shared vegan Caesar salad: GODDAMN.
Dinner: Three different types of "pizza" though my absolute favorite was the I Am Luscious (whoops, my menu name again), the one with the pesto sauce spread on the raw crust/cracker made of dehydrated nuts and vegetables topped with shredded greens. F-F-F-FAV!
Dessert: Believe it or not we all shared just one. Almond milk "ice cream" topped with raw chocolate brownies and an almond milk latte. UH, HEAVEN.
I feel much, much love for raw food now. You can honestly taste every flavor of a dish. I'm sorry I judged before. In fact, now I crave that raw taste more than Millennium. Millennium was a special treat, but I could honestly eat at Cafe Gratitude every single day.
After dinner we went to a party in the lower Haight. The hosts were fantastically eccentric. He was an Austin Powers look-a-like film maker who had done a few films about martinis. He was wearing white pants, white retro button up and white slip on shoes. His wife was fabulously Italian, puckering with air kisses calling us Dawwling! She wore a black baby doll dress with silver, elbow length gloves. They had just gotten back from Iceland where they stayed at a natural spa called the Blue Lagoon. Did you know that all Icelanders are gorgeous, men and women? Me neither. They are next heading to an International World Music Festival in the Sahara desert, next to Timbuktu which is not a mythical place, fyi.
Anyway, other than the hosts, the party was a bit boring so Betsy, Betsy and I started talking a ton of pictures. We tuned the rest of the party out:
Then we took it to the streets:
My Bay Area trip was fantastic!
Tomorrow, the family and I are on our way to the desert. We're trying a new Thanksgiving tradition. This is the first annual. And though every day is Thanksgiving at our house, I want to say a deep, heartfelt thanks for my stellar life, my bestest friends Mandy, Betsy and Honduro, and to my new blogger friends with whom I feel a genuine kinship. I Am Grateful, and I don't mean the hummus plate with young coconut thyme dressing.