Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Palabras Para Hoy 29 de Mayo 2007

"La vida es una carnaval." - Celia Cruz

Last Monday I was given the news that family passed away. Louie Del Valle was my brother and sister's godfather and like a Tio to me. His wife passed away in October of 2005. Both were amazing individuals. They had a loving marriage that I some day dream of having...my soulmate who understands and supports me and shares music with me.

From the Del Valles I learned more of my heritage, danced Bomba.

The funeral was this weekend in Upstate New York. My brother and his wife drove up.

While I was in the Bay taking in the possibility of using GIS to enhance digital storytelling, they were celebrating Louie's life...dancing, eating, sharing stories.

I was celebrating in my own way...enjoying Carnaval in all of it's foggy glory in the Mission.

Alone I stood with other parade goers...wondering why the parade started an hour and a half late, but I found my nook and readied the digital camera I borrowed from the school and my laptop to take video.

A flurry of feathers and color and I danced in the street with my fellow latinos...from Brazil to Bolivia to Panama to Trinidad to Granada to Puerto Rico to Guatemala to Mexico...we are a huge wave in the United States. I'm freaked out by our pick and choose immigration laws...but I see the color and flavour we add to the world and I am proud.

So I danced in the streets with my parading companions...some on stilts, some on heels and whooped as my flag passed.

Si, la vida es una carnaval.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

"I don't get teacher food."

"I don't get teacher food."

- Stated just now by Selasie in my current school when he asked what a tray of wrap sandwiches were. I told him. He looked at them incredulously and then spouted his wisdom. It totally made me crack up on this tense day!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ya Me Voy de Mi Barrio

I leave soon.

Mami is off shopping for shoes and the day is glorious in the Bronx.

Yesterday was an amazing Mother's Day spent with my abuelita...from washing and drying her hair to dancing with her to traditional Puerto Rican music.

Titi Ana and Mami cooked a feast and we spent it eating and laughing.


My heart is FULL con familia.

Gracias a Dios. Ahora regreso a casa banada en sus almas.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

10 Miles!

Today's accomplishment was bypassing the Self magazine workout in the park to run my 10 miles.

I passed the Empire State Building, the Guggenheim, the Chrysler Building...all surrounding the Park as I undulated up and down hills gently.

My mind was a little blown. There were PEOPLE out there running...all kinds of people at all kinds of speeds and I have been running solo for the last few months.

After I adjusted to the running traffic, roller blading traffic, bicyclist, and the scent of horses from the horse-drawn carriages, I got into my groove.

I ratched my effort down because I wanted to reserve my energy to last the 10 miles. Today was hot and breezy in Central Park. This is only the second time I have run during the afternoon. (Yesterday was my first...in the Bronx.)

10 miles meant 3 miles longer than the longest run I've done -- uh, two weeks ago.

And the last run I did was last Wednesday for 3 miles and almost passed out. (I forgot to eat breakfast first.) So I really had to psyche myself back into feeling fine about a long run and knowing that I would do it...and what better place to do my longest run than the city of my birth?

Manhattan is rather manicured. Lots of boutique shoppes. Cartier, Gucci and other names other people seem to know are found on 5th Avenue.

I crossed Madison Avenue and breakfast on Lexington after about a mile walk where I took in the doormen, the ladies with their little dogs, and architecture and flats that were gorgeous, but seemingly abandoned. Gorgeous stone facades and details guarded by smartly uniformed men. I appreciated their friendly return of my good mornings.

I had a lovely breakfast at Mon Petit Bistro of a Salmon-Florentine omelet with lovely red potatoes and a mint tea. I sat and thought about how ridiculous and wonderful my evening's romance was and then I thought about what 10 miles meant.

10 miles is almost half the marathon.

10 miles is ridiculously longer than I thought I could run 3 months ago.

I did it. I did it running the lake and past Strawberry Fields. I did it passing the breakdancers down by the racing boats and the Jazz combo a little past the Guggenheim. I did it past the Carousel. I went once and a half around the Park. The PARK!

Different than any other run, I found that I needed to make pit stops to use the rest room and replenish my water. I don't have a hydration system, so I sipped from Central Park's water fountains. New York water isn't as wonderful as I remembered it to be, but it's still pretty darn good. Especially in comparison to the $4.00 price tag the bottled water cost at the hot dog venders. WHAT???

I detoured to 3 gorgeous metal bridges with wooden slats and under two seemingly ancient arches of beautiful stone work. I was bathed in flower petals as they fell on my face.

My knees ache and my face and arms were coated with a white powdery substance that I noticed was salt when I licked my lips.

The Karminsky Experience's "Exploration" played twice and inspired me to keep running. I kept a smile on my face as I ran through my mind and thought of the Race.

Post run snack? A Good Humor strawberry Scooter Crunch (a favourite from childhood), and a banana frozen fruit bar (I wanted the potassium). Yes, I read the labels as I snacked. Definitely not my first choice of nutrients, but my inner child was happy. Chilly ice cream on a summery afternoon in New York reminded me of when I was little and visiting my family here.

Now a nap before abuelita comes and family friends from...30+ years ago! Que RICO!

Romance in New York

We picked up mami from the airport at 10:30 or so this evening and went straight into Manhattan to go dancing.

First destination: S.O.B.s (Sounds of Brazil), but the salsa band was done playing by the time we walked up to the club.


Titi had a plan B - Gonzalez y Gonzalez. No cover. The place was packed and the crowd was dancing merengue skirted by onlookers nursing drinks at the bar.

I was feeling passive.

Bobbing my knees and swaying my hips. The men were in their dress shirts and slacks and the women were in their sexy-licious.

I love being in a space with all Latinos. The standard of beauty has a broader scope. Hips are an asset, breasts are an asset, and every woman has self-esteem enough to wear tight clothes and is brough to the dance floor.

Tonight I had three dance partners. This is more than I have had in the last 5 months dancing at Luka's. I don't mind dancing alone, but I love it when a good salsa lead makes twirling and moving so easy. I danced salsa, merengue and bachata. I really missed bachata for its precision and simplicity and ultimately romantic lyrics.

Then the band came on. I found my mami and my titi talking at the bar and hung a bit with them. My wanderlust set in, though. I had the hankering for late night New York pizza.

And I left the club to follow along Broadway. 4 blocks away was a New York mainstay and I aimed to get my NY slice of pizza.

The weather was still balmy from this evening's earlier thunderstorms. A little sticky and warm and lightened by the breeze.

Along the way I actually received cat calls from construction workers and dudes in SUVs. I walked in my black boots, grey skirt and New York City Girl tank top from Wong's. I walked with purpose.

And I was stopped by Chris (real name: Q____) who told me in his smart shirt and slacks that he loved my hair.

He kissed my hand and asked me out to a drink. I told him I was on my way to grab a slice of pizza and he was welcome to come along.

I wasn't creeped out at all. It seemed perfectly normal that I would ask a New Yorker to accompany me for my pizza excursion.

He explained that he was a classical musician and kept commenting on my hair and I smiled and blushed in a girlie kind of way.

As we walked back to the club in the middle of a smaller street he gallantly drew me to him and kissed me gently on the lips.

I was taken aback, shy about it, and thought to myself that I didn't make it a full year without being kissed.

He clasped my hand as we continued to walk back to Gonzalez y Gonzalez where I knew my Titi and Mami would be worried about me. He told me about his music and I told him I was a teacher.

We leaned against the building as I finished my pizza and made small talk. My Titi and Mami came out and seemed relieved to find me. I introduced Qrisi to them. They went to get the car. I finished my pizza.

Q___ told me I needed to come to New York and stay a week. He cooks. He's a classical musician and has beautiful eyes.

How lovely. My first New York romance, however so brief.

Friday, May 11, 2007


I just came back from a run in the Bronx.

The morning began with a gorgeous thunderstorm and that smell of rain has hung in the air. About halfway into my run as I ran from Grand Concourse to Mt. Eden little drops began to fall out of the sky as I passed by so many beautiful brown people of many ages.

Titi Ana says the Puerto Ricans are being run out of the Bronx. That makes me sad, but I couldn't help but be proud when I saw the flags...everywhere. In people's cars, in a garden outside of an apartment high-rise, fluttering and battered beneath the train tracks of the metro system, on t-shirts, in shop windows was the 5 stripes and stars of the Puerto Rican flag.

As I ran toward Mt. Eden and back toward Yankee Stadium people encouraged me as I ran. En acentos boricuas they wished me luck, congratulated me on my running, told me I looked good running, and even blessed me.

I've been off the lam from running for a little over a week. Tomorrow around Central Park I will do my longest run...10 miles.

Fat raindrops gently came down on my face and streamed down. I'm sure I was steaming a little bit as I ran. People got on and off the bus. Men worked on the new Yankee stadium construction site. Kids ran in front of their mamis. The ice cream man double parked in the street.

A lot of people double parked in the street.

The streets are narrow and the hydrants have a lot of history. The city smells SO good. A familiar smell of home and cooking. Out of the windows stream music...merengue, bachata, salsa, baladas.

The only thing separating the old men from the young men is the shape of their faces. The hats are all tipped to the side, the pants are sagging, and the kicks are the same...a few wrinkles separate the young bucks from the older men.

Que lindo, el Bronx hoy.

Gentrification Hasn't Quite Come to the Bronx...

And this is how I know. I did a Yelp search for an organic grocery in my aunt's neighborhood and this is the result that came back:

Searching Map for organic grocery did not return any results

Map centered on Bronx/Concourse Village, New York, NY

But there are cuchifrito shops that feature everything fried on a pig and jugo de ajonjoli, coco, mango...MMMMMMMM. Last night I had jugo de coco, un bacalaito (a little light on the bacalao unfortunately), and Titi had jugo de ajonjoli (sesame). YUM! (or perhaps as my people might spell it... Llam!)

Estoy en mi hogar, hombres!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I Missed You, New York

3:30 on Thursday morning I stood outside of my house in Oakland waiting for the Super Shuttle.

I packed a mere 40 minutes before and I cutout the full shower and just focused on the face splash and teeth brushing so I could squeeze in my vitamins.

My 6 am flight to Houston from OAK would bring me a half-continent closer to my titi and my mom and my hometown.

I haven't seen my mom since her house burned down in February.

And these last two weeks after seeing friends from out of town I have been really missing my mother.

In speaking with Titi Ana last week to confirm flight information it finally became real that I would see Mami and bonus for this trip I would also see my Titi and my Abuelita in the same go. Double bonus? My cousin Mario is in NYC as well.


As I boarded my Continental flight I notice that they may have the most narrow seats in the air. Since Americans have increased in size as of late, it seems they have not followed the trend well and for the sake of sardining folks in to maximize their gas dollar, everyone gets to sit uncomfortably.

I made the best of my aisle seat: my right elbow hung off the arm rest and my seatmate to the front leaned the chair back so that when I used my laptop it practically sat atop my breasts. Needless to say, I was a bit squeezed.

After puttering a bit on the laptop I opted for sleep. I pulled out my fuzzy, paisley, purple blanket and buckwheat pillow and nodded. Hours later my row mates tapped my shoulder to use the facilities and were 30 minutes from landing.


This time I was not privvy to the George Bush statue and alcove.

Clearly the creator is merciful.

I did have a friendly encounter awaiting lunch with a gentleman entrepreneur who spoke of losing millions on one business and working to recoup from another business he had started.

Our server was a dymamic young woman who had a friendly call as she served up slices and entertained us weary travelers. I appreciated that she was so upbeat. It softened my brow and I enjoyed my decent cheese pizza with fresh basil and tomato slices.

I also paid $2.09 cents for water. Yikes. Nestlecorp seems to have purchased every water source on the planet. And they are charging top dollar for it.

I continued walking to my gate and noticed on a departure screen that there was a NYC flight departing an hour earlier than my scheduled flight. Hrm...

"It doesn't hurt to ask," I thought.

I headed into to Customer Service, asked if there was room, and sure enough there was. EXCELLENT! An hour sooner meant I might be able to get a run in tonight.

The sun was bright in Houston. The planes gleamed. I was half-way to seeing my mami.

I arrived at my gate and power poached at an outlet beneath the TTY keyboard by a public telephone.

I heard some Spanish. An older Afro-Peruvian woman and a young Meztiza-Puerto Rican woman were discussing using the telephone. The Peruvian woman needed to call her family and the Puerto Rican woman offered it to her, no problem. The Peruvian woman blessed her for her generosity and the Puerto Rican woman graciously said "Of course."

I thought of how we make connections with language, we hispanohablantes. Somehow I don't always feel the same with my English-speaking fellow beings. I can hear a Spanish affect to an English pronunciation, switch to Spanish and suddenly a connection appears. It's awesome.

My new flight was delayed and would land only a half-hour before the original flight.

No worries.

I sat and watched an older woman's belongings as she went to find some water.

Then we cattle were called after the Elite customers and customers needing extra assistance.

I smiled as I made my way to my window seat. I shared a row with an older couple dressed in smart spring clothes. Beautiful spring greens.

I brought out my blanket and pillow again and crossword puzzle book.

No real desire to solve puzzles I switched to Backgammon on the Mac and the Sun god kicked my butt from a lucky roll.


Then they announced the movie: Music and Lyrics or something featuring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore.

Wow. Time to sleep, 2 hours later: Welcome to La Guardia Airport!

Monday, May 7, 2007

80 Degrees in the Sunset

Yesterday afternoon I met up with my friend Amy who has moved to Pittsburgh.

We had an amazing lunch at Tikka Masala and then headed off to admire CHOMP! - the Carnivorous Plant exhibit at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.

The sun was merciless.

We parked along Lincoln and walked among families, drum circles, and resident-free folks to find the conservatory, a beautiful glass structure that's been renovated to house an impressive collection of greenery, some of which is completely surprising to think of as members of the plant kingdom.

There are orchids that have fantastic shapes...seemingly out of science fiction, but here they are...among us, coloured to camouflage or to flounce their beauty.

Some of the trees are immense and it's amazing to align some basic foodstuffs with the plants from which they come.

I was most taken by the rice plant. Such a tiny and delicate plant that produces a few grains.

I eat a lot of rice.

A lot.

And I realize I do none of the work to harvest this plant. It must be gently shaken of its fruit. The grains must be processed...some of it hulled, some of it left with the hull on. It must be sorted and weighed.

All to feed the majority of the world's people.


I'm Sad

This weekend I got to hang out with friends, if ever so briefly, and realized that our lives have changed.

We never get to hang out in the same way because we're married or have children, or are scattered geographically.

And I also realize that I am resentful of such change.

Big time.

I am so thankful to have these email relations with people that I have as of late because I sure as heck don't see people anymore.

I'm buried in work and running these days.

I didn't even get to see my boyfriend the webcrawler this weekend...cause I was just too tired.


I did get to see an amazing moon on Saturday night after social event no. 2.

Perhaps I was overwhelmed by trying to make two events in an evening.

I'm slowing down in my old age. I remember when hitting 5 spots in a day was nothing.

Now I'm slowing down and enjoy spending time by myself in my house and it almost seems like work to leave my little next.

What am I coming to?