We're at Mama Luz's and Big Papi's house, chilling. In fact, we're blasting the El Cantante soundtrack and we take turns blurting out the words as we skip-dance around the living room and the kitchen. Mama Luz and I are the types who have to move to this music, we cannot help ourselves. Mama Luz is barefoot, in jeans and a stained tank top. She busted her toe a couple weeks ago, but every time I skip into the kitchen I spy her twitchin her hips anyway, her shoulders hunched, one hand on her stomach and swaying her head to the music. Every other song we make Maya and Mina get up and dance with us. Every once in a while Big Papi says, "He don't do it right" and he means Marc Anthony doesn't do the Lavoe songs justice, and I agree and don't agree. I am a sucka for the graininess of Anthony's voice. He does no wrong in my eyes. Mama Luz neither. We're under his spell. Big Papi and Mama Luz come from the NY Salsa Golden Era of the 70's, when the most spectacular and innovative artists emerged, and Luz and Papi would came in from the Bronx to catch shows in Manhattan wearing wide collars, gold chains, mini skirts and sassy short haircuts respectively. Mama Luz still rocks that cute hair cut and oooo she'd cut off four fingers if she could figure out how get back her chiseled, mini-skirt popping legs again that are really not that far from being what they were. She wore a mini skirt to my wedding for god's sake. She could probably still bat those humongous eyes that take up most of her face to get what she wanted; expedited no less because her smile and stare glint with a spec of no-good.
Big Papi, the soft-spoken and kind one, just finished telling us a story about how he bitch slapped an employee a couple years back. Some new guy at his job kept calling Big Papi a cabron and hijo de puta and chinga tu madre don't you know, but in an endearing way the guy said; no harm meant, that's just how he talks. Big Papi, thirty years this kid's senior explained that this may just be a cultural misunderstanding, but PR's don't talk casually in this manner and he better cuida la boca , watch his mouth. Of course the kid said, "Sure, Cabron." And Big Papi slapped him up twice; it's documented right there on the company camera. I said, flipping up my hand, "You warned him fair and square." He said, "Yes, I did." I added, "I thought you were the non-violent one in the house." I glared over at Mama Luz as she laughed. "He can throw down if he needs to," she said with pride.
Needless to say, we're having a great time.
Mama Luz and I went dancing a couple days ago, and it hurts me to report that the salsa scene in New York is dead, temporarily I'm praying. I told her it's a travesty that Cali is KILLING the NY scene and she agreed. The other night we went to a place called the Crazy Donkey. This was probably mistake number one. When they advertised "Latin Night" it didn't occur to us that they mainly meant reggaeton. I like reggaeton ok, but certainly not without Husband because this is a let-me-get-my-grind-on dance if there ever was one. The last time we were in Puerto Rico over four years ago, reggaeton had taken over the island and we spied out two couples on a double date in the parking lot of Luquillo Beach. A pair of well-endowed thick sisters were coupled with two skinny and thrilled dudes. When I say date I mean to say that they were standing outside a car with wide open doors and reggaeton was blasting over the car's speakers. The kids were dancing or should I say the boys were kind of standing there, kind of gyrating and the girls, both of them, were bent over in front of the boys working it out: Hands were flat on the ground, booties shaking and stirring. As Husband says, their butt cheeks were wrapped around these guys. We stared and sang, "Daaammmn." At the Crazy Donkey there were no dancers as interesting as the couples at Luquillo, but there was still blatant attempts to rub against something and every time a reggaeton came on I hid out near the bar. When they played the infrequent salsa, Mama Luz and I would naturally dip our knees to the beat and move our feet. No men knew how to dance beyond a basic, sad step so Mama Luz lead and I followed and we turned and shook it and laughed. A group of women kind of semi-circled us and after the couple songs ended, one of the women pulled Mama Luz aside and said, "If we could just get these guys to dance that old school stuff like you ladies we'd be so happy." Mama Luz said, "I hear you." When she told me, I said, "That's old school?" And here I thought it was timeless.
Mama Luz is boiling meat in a pot right now. It smells disgusting. I tell her so. She made a salad too, to impress me and I secretly love that she tries hard to impress me on that level. When she accidentally puts marinade on the salad instead of dressing she yells, "MIERDA COñO MOTHER FUCKER" and we laugh. This is the tone in which Mama Luz usually speaks. We're always like, "Why are you yelling?" And she says, "SHUT UP." Food is the funniest topic in this house. Mama Luz says, "Mira, I don't know why my cholesterol is so high." I say, "Yo, you're still drinking whole milk. That's nasty." And she yells, "THEY SAID ON TV THAT THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THAT AND 2%. I CAN'T DRINK THAT FUCKING 2%." I say, "Gimme a break." And she smirks. When she comes in with a grocery bag, she likes to announce what's in the bag. She says what she thinks is the healthiest stuff loudly: "I GOT BROCCOLIS" (The fact that she adds an "s" to the end of many words might be the trait that endears me the most to her.) So she got broccolis "WHOLE WHEATS AND BANANAS." Then she pulls out whole milk, salami, cheese danishes and cigarettes, but she doesn't announce those. "OH AND I GOT MY WATER." What she means is that she got a bottle of diet pepsi which she splits between two other empty bottles and fills the rest with water. She claims this is the only way she can drink water. "I HATE THE TASTE OF WATER. AND THIS WAY IT'S STILL HAS NO CALORIES."
I can't tell you enough stories to explain how much I love these people.