Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Erotic Verse: Lodestar

Our first kiss told an unwritten story
One of hapless mariners lost at sea
Sharply, we keeled as wind
Struck hull, heart and body
Until finally, unfurled in the calm of our bed
I blew quietly from my lips
Like sirens had done for centuries
Only I had already seduced you
And you knew, the story need not be written
In constellations named after gods
For no other star would guide us
But our love

Monday, August 18, 2008

When It Rains, It Pours

hurricane photo

Fay has me feeling nostalgic about strange Miami Beach experiences that have happened before storms. Hurricane Andrew of '92 comes to mind: my gal pal and I hanging out at a Club Douche, not taking storm warnings seriously. But the parent of a friend of ours was one of the dudes who flew into the storms on those specially equipped, turbulence-buster airplanes. He had been warning everyone: shit's gonna hit the fan!

In my twenty-something years, I had never experienced a hurricane and so it was no wonder that my friend and I made the most of it when we met some cute British tourists who didn't care if our world would be turned topsy-turvy tomorrow. After all, we didn't care either. She had a something-something in Tallahassee who would -- years later -- end up becoming her husband and the father of her children. But at the time, we were young, single and emotional nomads. Marauding females for the sake of a good time. We didn't have homes, mortgages, insurances, children and illnesses. Nope. We were little storms of our own, collecting our spinning energy from the tropical heat.

Yet it's remarkable to me, in retrospect, that both those who were carefree and those who were not still waited until the last minute to take Andrew seriously. It's like we really were poised for disaster. Suddenly, Miami was going to have a collective story to tell -- the kind of story that only happens when the unthinkable happens and then you're forced to come together.

I remember driving back from the beach in the early morning after a long night of carousing and a few stolen kisses on the beach. I had enough sense to pull up to a gas station on Coral Way and to wait in line -- a line that seems like nothing now, with post-Andrew media frenzy whipping everyone into a froth -- even when it's just a little squally weather threatening the mainland.

There was no way I could've predicted what would be happening in less than 24 hours. Life would never be the same. Yet this banal, average, forgettable gas-filling moment will forever stick in my mind. I guess, as writer, as an accidental composer of life, I tend to obsess about phrases. The phrase "what would happen next" happens to me every time I stick that regular fuel nozzle into the tank. Umpf.

I remember this day (August 22, 1992) like it was the demonic breed of artists; let's say that Beethoven and Robert Altman had a kid, but Virginia Woolf was the unlikely mother. Imagine the slow movement of a Beethoven symphony that starts around 9 a.m. leading to a heart-thumping chorus by midnight, and each fragment of the day is borne to light, each time it's told. Little patches of the ordinary, somehow, somehow, making up the extraordinary.

Andrew would be like the bad relationship you never wanted to have. We were young women. We weren't soldiers. We didn't go to war. We didn't really suffer. But we did go through Andrew, full throttle.

After a day of boarding-up plywood that provided a surreal contrast to the evening's shenanigans, my family and I evacuated to Kendall where my sister lived in a spacious home. We lived in South Miami, yet it was Kendall -- irony of ironies -- that'd be hardest hit.

Andrew was my first experience of real, feral anxiety and physical fear caused by nature. If there was ever a moment to truly be scared, to truly experience the adrenalin-pumping fight-or-flight reaction, it was Andrew.

I remember huddling in the corner of my sister's spacious, cathedral-ceiling bedroom, roof tiles flying and concrete shaking. Boundaries were being crossed. Homes were supposed to be stable places and suddenly, you were small and nature was looming. I felt like an idiot. How could I be kissing a British boy the night before, not knowing this? And yet thankful. Thankful I had kissed a boy, knowing this.

Low pressure on the barometer made my little corner of security only the more unbearable. The world was rocking but we were on terra firma. That's really what a serious hurricane is like -- the ocean invading the land. A watery wind world, taking over.

For hours upon hours, the high-pitched squeal of drafts filled our ears. But I listened to every single word Bryan Norcross had to say and not to that noise. His comforting voice was like a gentle guardian holding me by the hand (he held the hand of many a South Floridian that night). Bryan Norcross will forever be a hero in my mind. That man was not the mere voice of a broadcast journalist and meteorologist coming across the battery-operated, portable radio -- no, he was actually the voice of hope. Hunkered down in the Channel 7 bunker as he was, he wasn't just doing his job, for pete's sake -- he managed to pull us through the tempest. It was so real and raw, that I get goose bumps just thinking about it. Norcross was the catalyst somehow kindly speaking: "Miamians you gotta be real people now."

And we were -- well, somehow, a collective spirit of "help thy heretofore unknown neighbor" managed to flood our soaked-out, frustrated hearts. After this incredibly destructive storm, I spent time volunteering in Homestead with the air force food and shelter facility. It rained -- like insult to injury -- days after Andrew. But we plugged along, each on his own and yet one for all and all for one somehow, even though "price gouging" was becoming common parlance.

So big was the mess. Mess, everywhere. Untidiness, all around. But it's one thing if your home is untidy -- not your city. Trailers, homes, buildings, infrastructure -- all suddenly matchsticks. Stability was nowhere to be found. All you could do was throw up your hands up in the air and bless it somehow. Life had come down to basics, which is really nothing but everything: eat, drink, shit, pee and sleep.

There's nothing like a good hurricane to put everything in perspective, huh? When civilization is lost, we have no context. And weather does that to us. All the time.

Andrew forced me to move on in my life. Andrew happened when I was just about to start graduate school, so I had an assignment. Back home, by the humid moonlight, with our living room roof partially caved in, I read Freud's Interpretation of Dreams by candlelight while enjoying a peanut butter sandwich and evaporated milk dinner outdoors.

Frogs sangs at twilight. Frogs I'd never heard before. And afterwards, the sound of generators drowned out the implacable silence of an imposed curfew. Miami, silent. Miami, forced to stay indoors. Miami, the city that sleeps, but is usually obnoxious. You could really "feel" Miami in the lingering silence of those nights after Hurricane Andrew.

Why am I thinking so much about Andrew? Why reminisce now, sixteen years later, about that storm I speak of, as if it were an intimate lover? Because last night I met someone who really looked me in the eye -- the eye of my own storm. A totally unexpected meeting, on Miami Beach, with seemingly endless conversation punctuated by a furtive goodbye kiss -- the night before freakin' Fay.

Weather may be inconstant, but I guess our feelings are not. The heart covets its desires and longs for its thrills, but there's a comforting constancy in that. I can't help feeling that love is a kind of storm -- a something-something that changes everything -- even when it doesn't.

Friday, August 15, 2008

La Latica

La LaticaA dissertation on the cheap aluminum Cuban bidet.

A dissertation of sorts on the cheap aluminum Cuban bidet. Gives whole new meaning to Campbell's soup, mmm mmm good!

Actually, I have never seen "a keng" in any "Cuban womenz" bathroom, but a friend suggested this post idea to me!

Speaking of Cuban womenz, guess which Jewish gringo boy just ate a chonga with cream cheese?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lessons from the Garden

I wrote this story in 2005, several months before I started this blog. Obviously, I'm not in love anymore, but the person I mention in the last paragraph was Mr. Thinks He's Huge and the man I left was Sir Fish A Lot. It doesn't matter -- what matters is the story. And it would matter more if it gets anyone to think about the importance of love in one's life. It certainly itched my marrow today -- I say marrow because being single and out of love for a long time is like having an itch you can't scratch -- itch down to the bone.

Seven years ago, I found myself in a very uncomfortable situation. My ex- boyfriend and I, graduate students at the time, shared a house with a colleague who sublet a room in the spacious property we called home. But the lack of proper privacy, as well as the rental agreement, was the least of our problems. Our relationship suffered for other reasons, which I eagerly desired to put in the past. I anticipated the sigh of relief I would breathe in a place where we could pick up the pieces of our broken love, because it had shattered and was struggling to survive.

It was no coincidence, I am certain, that the house had an enormous, labor- intensive lawn, yet hardly any land suitable for gardening. I had planted some flowers in an area just in front of the porch and had potted a few plants by the pool, but that was the extent of the opportunity to exercise my green thumb.

One day, I heard about a cottage for rent that was a gardener's paradise. The cottage had a landscape where my imagination could go wild -- shady areas for ferns and bromeliads, sunny spots for marigolds and pentas. An enormous avocado tree shaded the northeastern side of the property, while other trees -- sapodilla, lychee, ficus and an array of palms -- made the dwelling a cozy, intimate space.

Soon after we moved into our would-be love nest, a place where we could start anew together and alone, I planted several types of vines, including passionflower. It would not be long before caterpillars devoured every leaf of that vine. Once they had entered the cocoon phase of their amazing metamorphosis, the plant looked like a surreal, leafless Christmas tree -- nothing but twigs with dangling cocoons as ornaments. My ex-boyfriend and I observed this process day to day. And I wondered, as well, if we were nourishing our own love and if it too would someday become something beautiful.

One morning, I stepped outside and was greeted by countless ruby-orange wings fluttering softly in the air. The caterpillars had eaten all those leaves for a reason and I became a witness to the most breathtaking moment of their life cycle. If I had been fussy and treated the plant with insecticide, I would have interrupted their cycle and would not have been rewarded with the sight of these gentle creatures. The butterflies taught me that some of the plants in the garden should be reserved for such special purposes. Surely, I would not let all my plants be decimated by pests, but I would at least give caterpillars the chance to transform into butterflies. I would let go of the ego's desire to prune and cultivate the perfect plant. Instead, I would let nature take its course.

Our relationship would also take its own course. As much as we enjoyed our home as a living space, our love, unfortunately, was not growing as bountifully as the flowers and foliage in my garden. Love, like plants, must be watered, fertilized, pruned, checked for pests and diseases on a regular basis. Love must not be over-watered because nutrients will be leached from the soil and its roots will rot. Yet love must be watered just enough, especially when its leaves are
wilting sadly from neglect. Love must be repotted when its roots have outgrown the container. Most importantly, love must endure the ravages of hungry caterpillars.

Early the following year, my ex-boyfriend kept dropping hints about an engagement ring. Nothing too obvious, mind you, but just enough to put my woman's intuition on the alert. On Valentine's Day he gave me an orchid instead -- a stunning oncidium with a flourish of yellow and garnet leopard print flowers. To my heart's surprise, I knew then that if he had proposed, I would have said no. I asked my sorrowful heart for an answer and it replied that our love had transformed into something genuine and real, to be sure, but not into a creature that could be called marriage.

When we left the cottage I also left behind most of my plants, since I was moving in with a friend who offered me temporary shelter while I gathered my bearings. Her apartment was large but had no balcony. I had to make a decision about which plants to take with me on this journey that would be the rest of my life. I took all my orchids and my most prized potted plant -- a bleeding heart vine that I would place on a sunny, outdoor stairwell.

Eventually, I moved to an apartment on the beach with a balcony. By then, the bleeding heart was very ill, convalescing from an unidentifiable condition that caused it to drop its all its leaves. Although the vine appeared to be dead, every time I would clip one of its stems, I could see that it was still green and vibrant within its dried-out woody exterior. So I waited patiently for nature to take its course once again. I watered it regularly, yet expected the plant would die on its own timing.

Many months passed before I noticed a tiny spot of bright green stretching out from one of the twigs. Within weeks, the plant was in full bloom once again, its thick spinach-like leaves serving as a backdrop for voluptuous bracts of tender white and red heart-shaped flowers. I wondered then if the plant had been mourning the loss of the relationship all this time -- a quiet, steadfast companion by my side -- because my heart had also dried and shriveled up with pain. When I witnessed the vine's slow yet steady perseverance, when I watched it bloom in spite of its temporary phase of illness and ugliness, I knew that I too could blossom and that a bleeding heart was better than no heart at all -- a heart that lives and feels and grows -- in spite of everything.

Recently, I moved to an apartment with a garden overlooking a canal. The bleeding heart is still with me and is ill once again, showing no outwardly signs of life, although teaching me, as always, lessons in patience. Another one of my plants, that fateful Valentine's Day orchid, still graces my sight. In seven years it has never bloomed, exhibiting a rare stubbornness, considering that all my other orchids bloom at least once a year. But I grant that orchid the right to bring forth flowers on its own timing because in the past seven years, I also refused to let love enter my heart.

I waited patiently for a new love. Happily, I have fallen in love again and in my garden, we hold each other dear.

As some of you may recall, I recently sold everything I owned and moved to South Miami with six of my orchids. The *damn* orchid is still with me. It bloomed once since I wrote this, but hasn't flowered since. And that bleeding heart vine? It died. But it was, I must admit, the most difficult, courageous and stubborn plant I ever took care of -- one I'll never forget.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Aging: It's Not Just for Old People Anymore!

dove pro-age deodorantBeautiful skin has no age limits? Yeah, right. My big fat Cuban ass!

So the other day I went to CVS to pick up a few items and I happened to walk through the deodorant aisle when I was gently reminded that I should be concerned about the youthful appearance of my armpits. Yes, my armpits! Holy mother of cow shit! Who knew you had to worry about your armpits? I'm sorry, aren't wrinkles, saddlebags and cellulite enough? Sheesh!

Look it, when you've lived on South Beach, isn't it enough to have your ass primped and primed? I mean isn't it ironic that you bleach your ass yet spend hours in a tanning salon? Oh and don't forget, you have to pour hot wax on your privates so you look like a plucked chicken! You can't even be lightly breaded, oh no ... and G-d forbid you should even smell like a human! Oh no, please douche yourself until your vagina smells like the foyer at a cheap bordello!

Oh, but this is only the beginning my friends. Your journey toward mannequin-Stepford-wife-hood would not be complete without a pair of big ass fake tits the size of a Buick. Do you remember Buicks? They were the Hummers when gas was cheap but walking around commando wasn't.

As my photographer pal Miami Fever put it:

q: how do you make a 10 pound sack of fat sexy?

a: put a nipple on it.

Yeah, and put some lotion on it too. Well, I'm only 40 and I look pretty good for my age. I could very well call myself a 1-- pound sack of sexy! But what will I do in five years? What if I raise my arm to salute the flag and I'm wearing a tank top and someone should look at me and say: "Oh my, her armpits look really old!"

Sheesh, does this mean the no-mini-skirts-after-35 rule applies to armpits too? Do I need to wear long sleeves like the impossibly unsweaty ladies of Miami CSI?

While I applaud Dove for its realistic marketing campaign about beauty, I gotta say, this one has me feeling like some old cranky gal. I'll take the moisturizers any day, but please leave my armpits to age gracefully on their own terms!

I gotta wonder if Joan Rivers feels the same way ...

related: armpit sniffer