Coverage of me and other train wrecks: my mama, subway nut jobs, sex and the environment.


Marching on Washington

Rey and I will be in D.C. this weekend letting our politicos know they need a plan to leave Iraq and that plan cannot include an escalation if they want us to vote for them ever.

So, no posts for a few days. Send us your waves of stamina.


Love Age

Mama’s family is huge. Grandmama raised 5 boys and 5 girls. She actually birthed 12 total, but two died shortly after birth. Can you imagine your body opening up for that many children to push through—and that was a time when cesareans were dangerous and rarely used.

2006 was a rough year for mama and I was glad to celebrate its end with her in Miami. Three of mama’s brothers died last year. Two of her sisters have Alzheimers. She’s fighting depression in the face of the deaths of the only people in the world with whom she truly feels at home. My time in Miami was all about visiting aging, sick relatives. I only have two things to say about growing old. 1) It’s hard, you gotta be tough as nails because your neuroses are still fucking with you and your reponsibilities have multiplied, but your body and mind are disintegrating. 2) Age with a smile—there’s nothing worse than visiting family members whose age-related health problems have become burdens and every day for them is just another day of sadness.

But there’s nothing better than visiting those whose continue to find reasons to laugh and live in spite of everything. Aunt Orfelina is the latter. She and Uncle Luis have endured so many struggles. Now Orfe (as we call her, for short) can’t remember how to cook or clean and Luis has to pick up the slack around the house. He’s had several bypass surgeries and a mini-stroke. But when I got to their house and their arms flew open and they rushed towards me. Well, I rushed towards them, they’re slow. Oh, and Orfe at first was terrified. She didn’t recognize who I was. She thought I might be a burglar, but when she realized her mistake she laughed and held me. She’s scared to hold me tightly because of the double mastectomy (doesn’t want me to note the emptiness).

Luis gathered all the snacks he could find and served up a feast. They didn’t complain about what hurts, although they certainly talked about it. It’s not like they live in denial. But there’s a joy to them, a lust for life—gardening, the grandchildren, the dog, each other’s mistakes—all fodder for laughs. That’s the way to do it, I kept thinking. The clichés are right—if you fall get off the ground, keep your chin up, we shall overcome. Overcoming doesn’t mean you live forever; it means you live with integrity, courage, and above all, love. That’s the challenge always. Orfe and Luis are the only relatives who always ask me how Rey is doing. There’s no room for prejudice in their hearts, only a nourishing and steady love.


Love and Lard

She planted a dozen kisses on my cheek. No, two dozen. After each one, she’d rub the rusty mark of her lipstick but she’d keep kissing so that the rubbing never caught up with the kissing and my face was a smudge of iron red. December 29th, 2006 I landed in Miami and she didn’t stop kissing me all the way from the airport to her house.

Finally the car stopepd at the gate and her 70-year old frame darted out of the car, to the lock, unlocking the lock, pushing the gate, then wondering if I’d noticed the sign. She posed in front of it: a large posterboard with the words in green marker. God bless my son, welcome to your home. She picked up the edges of an imaginary skirt, crossed one foot in front of the other and curtseyed next to the sign, smiling bigger than the sun, and opened the gate.

Pop was there waiting on the driveway. They’re not married so he came in his truck, also on the driveway, but it was puzzling that the gate was closed, I mean, pop arrived, parekd in the driveway and closed himself in? Oh, of course, mama wanted me to see the sign so she’d insisted that the gate remain closed. I get it.

I’d succeeded in rubbing off most of the lipstick by the time I got out of the car to hug and kiss pop, who stammered something and shook. His eyes turned red and watery and he almost burst into tears. I see him once a year because he hates New York. It’s too cold for his Cuban blood.

The house smelled like passion fruit, pork, and old lady. Mama had prepared buñuelos for frying and even the anis syrup was ready.

“All I have to do is heat the oil and you can have some buñuelos—you want some?” Quick tutorial: buñuelos: make a dough out of boniato, yuca, and malanga (a squash), add some flour and anis seeds, shape like figure 8's, deep fry, serve with aniseed syrup. The Colombian version are round, and pictured above...So, did I want buñuelos? Well...

Honestly, all I wanted was to sleep. I’d gotten about 3 hours and arrived dog sick. Phlegm coating my tonsils and that unbearable stinging in the throat that makes swallowing inconceivable. Still, mama had prepared a fest for lunch: a casserole of boniato sweet potato and pineapple garnished with pecans. Mama’s been getting inventive. The casserole was coated in butter, melted marshmallows and brown sugar. Mama goes all out in her inventions. Like a kid with playdoh she’s eager to blend everything she’s got together into a massive dish. The casserole was quite tasty, but it was the entree and it tasted more like dessert.

Then there were the buñuelos, fried in lard...lard that mama’d made by rendering thick slabs of home-cut bacon. The bacon pieces ended up in the beans. Mama tries to cook vegetarian food and to sneak meat into it, thinking that I’m malnourished because I eat mostly vegetarian food at home (Rey’s one, so when we cook, there’s almost never any animal, although I eat chicken and fish). Getting her to confess to the bacon and lard was easy—I just clarified that I’m NOT a vegetarian and her secret ingredient list poured out.

Everything was wonderful, but I felt like shit and everytime I said so mama declared—“You won’t get sick. Propose it to your mind and you’ll see. Take your illness stuff it in a paper bag and throw it out the window.” I laughed but she was serious, she insisted. “Just throw it away.” I spent the next two days in bed. Outside it was in the mid 80’s farenheit and so who can complain? To be sick in Miami is still better than sickness in New York City.

...More on my trip to Miami in another post....


My World Or Die

The F train was packed with bodies but when the doors opened two people who’d been standing near the doors exited, so I they left a little spot for me to stand and I boarded. Of course behind me were three other people who shoved themselves on so there we were, four people standing where two should be, all smashed up against each other like an experimental dance troupe.

This won’t do, I thought, and I eyed a vacant area towards the middle of the train—not a huge space, mind you, but definitely large enough for my petite frame. With the right contortions it would be big enough for two, let’s say.

Ever the polite one I excused my way towards the spot, holding my stuffed orange messenger bag in one hand and my Margaret Atwood book in the other (Oryx and Crake, if you’re curious). My poofy down coat swished as I inched towards vacant real estate. I got to the spot without shoving and put my bag on the floor because there’s nothing worse than getting jabbed in the back by an inconsiderate passenger’s bag and yes the floor of a New York City subway is filthy but come on if you wanna travel first class take a cab. This is coach and anyone carrying a brand name bag is in possession of counterfeit Chinatown fashion, mkay. Put it on the floor, only the bottom will pick up dirt, and the stitches are all gonna fall apart in a month anyway.

By the time I put my bag down the train had started to move. That first second when a train moves jolts your body and since I hadn’t yet grabbed a bar I knocked into the woman next to me. She was short, golden-haired, over 55, wearing a brown tweed ladies’ jacket and matching long skirt and she had on too much honeysuckle perfume—eau de drag queen, you know? When I bumped into her she turned around all stunned and I looked her in the eye, smiled lovingly, and apologized, and SHE gave me the look of Satan. Oh yes she looked down her pointy powdered nose at me and made the same huffing sound my cat Luna does when she can’t get what she wants. Now, I’m about 5’7” and huffy puffy dragon must’ve been about five foot ZERO, and SHE was looking down her nose at ME...well at my waist, I guess.

I had no censor, I just blurted out “OOO, testy TESTY!” And she shook her head and turned away.

That’s the end of that, I thought, but then every time the bottom of her coat would rub on my leg or the train would bump my shoulder against her frizzed-out Miss Clairol hair, she’d turn around and huff. I ignored her and pretended to read while I fantasized about taking a machete and hacking her. Then I imagined her with a bloody injured leg during a terrorist attack and me walking by her and going, “nuh uh, I remember whatchu did to me on the F train, save yourself bitch.”

Passive aggression is my lifeblood so when I was getting off the train I looked her in the eye, smiled, and said goodbye, thinking I’m so much better than you, you poor piece of shit.