Wednesday, February 28, 2007

In which I whore my ass out for $100/hour

A friend recently forwarded me the following email in the hopes that I might be able to offer its author some assistance:
Subject: Looking for a fit model

As a [insert big name jeans company] designer, I am currently looking for women to participate in the development for a new, fit, “curvy jean” in misses size 8 (height 5'5" - 5'9"), and petite size 6 (height 5'2" - 5'4").

Curvy jean is especially designed for a woman who has a small waist, with a larger seat and hips. Our aim is to develop the perfect jean fit for a woman who has this body shape so that the back does not gap when she sits.

Please note: We are looking for more of an "apple" shape, not "pear". A "pear" shape represents wide hips (from the front view), but is not necessary bubbly. An "apple" shape is one which is not wide from front view, but sticks out a lot from the side view. The model we need must have a bubbly "up high" booty. She is most likely African American or Hispanic…

Salary for a fitting is approximately $100 - per hour.

It has been extremely hard to find this shape of woman through a modeling agency. Please contact me ASAP if you know of anyone you think is appropriate shape/size.

To which I responded…

Subject: The apple of my eye rear

To whom it may concern:

I can only imagine how difficult it’s been for you to find an apple-shaped model through an agency. I mean, you know as well as I do that none of those chics ever eat solid food, much less the carbohydrate-laden arroz con gandules that us Hispanic chicas eat.

I must say, it was with great joy that I received your email….as it brought with it not only new information (to think that all these years I’ve been made to feel like a PEAR when I’m really an APPLE!) but also a flicker of hope. You see, shopping for jeans has always been the bane of my existence. And your words brought tears to my eyes…tears of joy at the prospect of finally being able to find jeans, made right here in this country by real live gringos, rather than having to travel all the way to Brazil where they’ve had the good sense to put spandex into their denim for decades now.

Not only will you be saving me money, you’ll be sparing me the embarrassment and emotional trauma of showing my plumber’s crack every single time I sit down or bend over. And if this is the case, apple orchard is all yours. (For $100/hour, though, right?)

La Cubana Gringa

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I have my reasons for believing I’m alive in part because my mother would have killed me if I’d died…

First there was the graze with death. And then, a few years later, there was the full brush with it. This, aside from a small matter in 2005 involving a lion in Namibia, comprised the scariest moments of my life. As time distances me from the experience, it dulls, as Time always does, the feelings and emotions tied to it that were so overwhelming at the time…

…that strangely calm feeling of fear…
…that helpless feeling of certain death for us both…
…that feeling of complete disbelief that not only had I survived, but Dochechka as well…
…that feeling of utter gratitude to just be alive…

I find myself wanting to reach back…to always remember that fear, so that I can never forget my gratitude. I think it’s important to remember to be grateful for life, the fragile gift that it is…it’s what keeps me from sweating the small stuff…and by that I mean, it’s what keeps me from getting out of my car in rush-hour traffic and strangling the driver who decides to cut me, and everyone behind me, off by merging into my lane at the very last minute. (Seriously, though, would you QUIT doing that?)

In the Spring of 2003, right before we were to graduate from medical school, Dochechka and I headed down to Costa Rica to do a one month Community Medicine rotation.
This basically meant that we worked in area hospitals and clinics with all the diligence of the rest of the Latin American world…which entailed rewarding each work session (however brief) with fried foods, taking plenty of siestas (usually after the fried food), and lots of four-day weekends (every weekend). It was rough. Real rough. And if the Costa Ricans weren’t so great at frying up cheese, I doubt I would have survived the entire month.

Our last four-day weekend in Costa Rica was spent on the southeast coast, near the border of
Panama. We were staying in a beachfront hotel we’d specifically selected to accommodate my boyfriend at the time, Swims Like Fish, who’d decided to come down for a visit. Early one morning, we opted to do something completely uncharacteristic of us: forego our usual breakfast of fried cheese and gayo pinto and go to the beach instead. It was a beautiful morning and the call of the ocean, which was just footsteps away from our accommodation’s balcony, overwhelmed even our deepest gastronomic urges. (And if you only knew the depths of these, you'd be as amazed as I am to this day that we turned away from them temporarily.) Funny but, had we gone with our usual instincts, we would have been spared the ordeal that ensued. (This just underlines what I’ve been trying to tell people all along regarding the little-known, potentially life-saving properties of fried cheese.)

We walked through a grove of palm trees along the short path that led to the beach.
I set both my bright orange, floral sarong and my camera down on a massive piece of driftwood and walke
d 20 feet down to the water’s edge with Dochechka. It was a truly majestic morning. We watched the sunrise with the ocean lapping at our feet and ankles…a sunrise whose shades of tangerine and pink made a seamless union between ocean and sky. Where there was once Horizon, there was only Sun…for just a few delicious, suspended moments in time. And the three of us were the only ones on the beach to witness them.

Those small, tangerine moments seemed like gifts, and I wanted to remember them by taking back with me a few shells from the beach. There were sea urchin shells everywhere, small and large, all bleached white by the salt and sun. So Dochechka and I busied ourselves with collecting them while Swims Like Fish went for a swim. In knee-deep water, she and I chased urchin shells being pushed back and forth by the tide, collecting handfuls at a time and bringing them back up to where we’d stowed our belongings. I’d never seen so many shells and I suppose I was too preoccupied to notice that with one wave, the water level rose from our knees to our hips. It didn’t seem to be a problem until the very next wave came in and swept us up, off of the sandy ocean floor…and when the wave receded back out to sea, instead of placing us gently back down, it took Dochechka and me with it. For a few, blissfully unaware moments, the fact that we were quite suddenly unable to touch down anymore seemed interesting, rather than dangerous, to me. I turned toward the shore to look back at the piece of driftwood where we’d set our things…my bright orange sarong was now merely a blurry speck of color roughly 4o feet away. Hmm, would you look at that? I thought. Treading water, I turned to check on Dochechka just in time to see a wave smack her in the face…she came back up from under the water, but she was gasping frantically. She’d swallowed a lot of water. And it was then, when I saw the look of sheer panic in Dochechka’s eyes, that I realized we were in trouble.

At this point, I thought we should remain calm…that this was a totally manageable and entirely temporary problem that we could swim our way out of.
I mean, the floor couldn’t be that far down, could it? It was just there a second ago. So I swam over to her as she flailed and struggled to regain composure and I said to her, “It’s ok. We just need to swim out of this. We can totally do this. Let’s just swim back to shore.” She nodded in understanding.

So we both tried.
We gave it a really, really good try. But considering that collectively, our swimming capabilities amount to those of an 8 year old who learned how to swim the summer prior, we didn’t get very far. I could feel the strong tug of the rip tide….and when I looked back up at the shore…60 feet away. There was a small speck of orange there somewhere. But where? This is not good.

I looked back at Dochechka who’d failed as miserably as I had to get any closer to shore.
She grabbed for me, wanting me to help her. All the while, more waves were coming…they were getting bigger, more frequent, and they seemed to be coming from every angle now. There was little time for much of anything other than dodging waves.

I looked for Swims Like Fish and saw him back near the water’s edge, standing where we’d started, using his right hand to shield his eyes from the glare of the rising sun; he was scanning the waves looking for us.
We made eye contact. I waved my hand for him to come over. And with that, he dove in, disappearing under the water. And for a few moments…those infinite seconds that passed in which I couldn’t see him through the waves…I screamed at Dochechka to swim with me. But, having swallowed wave after wave of water to the face, all she could do was look at me and nod that “No” she simply couldn’t do that. I didn’t know what to do. SLF was nowhere to be seen. Had he drowned trying to get over to us? And there was no way I could leave Dochechka behind to attempt swimming it alone. Wave after wave after wave came in all around us…

Then, suddenly, SLF popped out from behind a massive wall of water.
At this point I wasn’t as breathless as Dochechka, so I pretended to be calm and told him to go help her first…so he swam past me and disappeared underneath another swell, leaving me alone to be my own swimming coach.

You can do this, you can do this. Just swim. Remain calm. Just swim. SWIM!!
I willed my arms and legs to kick and paddle. I kicked. And kicked. I tried free-style stroke. Breast stroke. Doggy paddling. Alone in the water, I kicked until I was grunting with effort. A wave came in from my left side and half of it went into my mouth. Remain calm. Catch your breath. Turn over onto your back and just float for a second, someone said that was a good way to rest. Who told me that once? Turn over on your side…just catch your breath. Catch your breath. That plan was foiled by another wave which managed to make it’s way into my mouth….forcing me to turn back over and try to swim again. Tired now. I looked up at the beach to check my progress. But there was none. It was as if I was swimming backwards while facing forwards…the shore proceeded to distance itself from me. The beach was still empty. There was no one there to flag down for help. And I couldn’t even see any orange now. But I knew it was there, somewhere. I know my orange sarong is waiting there for me…and my camera full of great pictures from our trip…and a pile of beautiful, white, delicate sea urchin shells to take back with me. I know they’re there. Somewhere. I imagined someone finding them in a few hours. It would be the only evidence that the three of us had been on the beach earlier. Someone would find the evidence…we’d fail to turn up for check out at the hotel…people would put two and two together…eventually they’d report us missing. This is fucking fantastic, my mother is going to be SO PISSED.

Motivated by the prospect of my mother’s mental breakdown following my impending death, I tried once more to make an earnest swim for the shore.
But failed. And I think I called out, I know I at least thought of calling out, SLF's name. Seconds later, he appeared. He heard me? “You got Dochechka out?”

he said calmly. “She’s fighting me too much right now...I’m going to have to knock her out if she keeps it up.”

Knock her out? Wait. You left her BEHIND????
He must have read my mind. Or did I actually say that? I can’t remember.

But he said, “That’s what you’re supposed to do when someone fights you…let me just get you to where you can touch down.”
I looked back and saw nothing but rising and shifting walls of water. No Dochechka in sight. I felt SLF's arm around my waste. He was swimming. We were moving. But where is she? Where IS she? WHERE IS SHE? I couldn’t see her anymore and I started crying. She was alone. We weren’t helping her. She is all alone!

Then, there was sand.
Under my feet…there was sand. “Ok…you can walk now,” I heard him say. He let go of me and I tried to stand, but I fell to my hands and knees. “Can you walk now? Go. Go back to the hotel. Get help. I’m just going to rest here for a second then go get Dochechka.”

Rest??? You’re going to REST?
But when I looked back at him to scream at him to go get her, please go get her, he was already gone. He disappeared again. Ok. I’ll go to the hotel. I’ll run to the hotel. I’ll get help. I tried to run, but I hadn’t yet caught my breath and my peripheral vision was dimming…blackening with my panicked hyperventilation…my legs were like jello, and the sand like quicksand, swallowing each of my weak attempts at a step. I looked back. Still no sign of either one of them in the water…just water and more water. Oh no!

I turned back and, like a Godsend, there were two women strolling onto the beach.
I made my way toward them, waving my jello arms around, screaming, weakly, in breathless, ill-assembled Spanish for them go get help.

“No…todo esta bien…todo bien.
No te preocupas,” one of them said.

What do you mean everything’s okay???
I thought this in English, and while nodding that No, everything is NOT okay, I searched for the words in Spanish.

But before I could find them, the woman said, “No, mira.
Todo esta bien…mira.” She pointed towards the ocean. I turned around, just in time to see SLF pulling Dochechka up onto the sand.

In a second I was there.
She was blue. He’d laid her flat on her back and her lips were blue, her chest was still. I dropped to my knees and looked at her for a second, about to check for a pulse and start CPR…when she turned her head slowly to the left and coughed up a mouthful of water. And then took in a big gulp of air. Pink again. Breathing.

I stood up and walked back to edge of the water…and cried the hardest cry in my life up til that point.
I thought they’d both died. My boyfriend and the closest thing I have to a sister. And before that, I’d thought that she and I were going to die. Suddenly the relief drowned out the fear. There remained only gratitude. And a slightly less mysterious ocean.

I didn’t dare tell my Mamacusa about the ordeal until I was safely back in the States.
Mostly because no Google or Yahoo map could have convinced her that Costa Rica’s San Jose was inland enough to eradicate the chances of a massive killer tsunami coming in and yanking me back out to sea. So I spared her the state of panic. When I came back, though, of course I told her all about it. And, in addition to the incredulous look which made its way to me as effectively through the phone lines as it would had she been standing before me, I got the following response…

“If you would have drowned, I would have KILLED you!!”

Which, of course, defies all logic and reason.
But then again, so does love. And thank goodness for that…because where would we be in this broken and beautiful world if it weren’t for the senseless lunacy of love? (And fried cheese?)

* Though it didn’t end up working out for Swims Like Fish and me, I am eternally grateful to him for what he did that day.

* I still have those sea urchin shells…in a bowl with sand from that beach and a candle the color of that ocean.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Am I getting too old for this?

Came home from work and spent a good portion of the evening in the kitchen making two Cuban flans in preparation for this Sunday’s party (the annual Oscars party The Brit and I host).

Came home from work. Went with The Brit to two different grocery stores to buy the obnoxious amount of groceries needed for the Oscars party menu. Did this til 10pm. Then, spent what was left of the evening in the kitchen making a Chocolate-Raspberry Mousse Cake.1 Did this til 1:30 AM. Then…packed. Went to bed at 2 AM.

Got on a plane to San Diego at 7:15 AM, leaving The Brit behind to do a full day of cooking by himself. Ran ceaselessly around San Diego with The Mexican Ho2 in preparation for her 30th birthday party that evening. This entailed picking up enough tortillas to feed both the Mexican AND the Irish sides of her family morning, noon and night for roughly a week, inhaling a quick breakfast, taking a trip to the nail salon for a manicure and pedicure (she’s kind of a Diva), picking up our favorite Italian Ho at the airport, getting the Mexican Ho’s makeup done at Bobbi Brown (hey, she didn’t get the Diva title accidentally), dressing up, and finally…partying. In her parent’s lavishly done-up back yard…complete with lights, papel picado, a Mariachi band, a piñata, a DJ, a rented dance floor, a rented deluxe porta-potty, 80 or so of her closest friends and family (including an abuelita who makes one mean tamale) and enough beer, wine and sangria to permanently damage the livers of everyone in attendance. It was a Treintañera the caliber of which more than made up for the fact that she'd never had the more traditional coming-of-age Quinceañera party. And we were sure to celebrate it Spanglish style, in honor of her Mexican Irishness. (Or is it Irish Mexican-ness?) Feliz birthday, mi Ho Mexicana…estoy tan happy que I was able to venir to your party! Espero que you enjoyed it…because I sure lo disfrute! Besos y hugs!

Got on plane back to SF at 6:20 AM. Arrived home at 8 AM to find The Brit, in the kitchen, experiencing a palpable bout of uncharacteristic panic. Which was weird. He never stresses. In fact, he’s often so completely level-headed and reasonable that it’s annoying. I’ve mentioned this before. Anyway, there he was, armpit deep in a kitchen whose counters were no longer visible under a sea of dirty mixing bowls, measuring cups, teaspoons, tablespoons, cutting boards, recipes…having finished only two thirds of the planned dishes
3 and currently mid-way through the painstaking assembly of the Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls. He was clearly only moments away from beginning to twitch and babble senselessly from the stress, so I took over the kitchen duties, freeing him up to go set things up at the art studio where we were having the party. I then spent the next several hours making ludicrous portions of Ham, Leek & Three cheese Quiche, Red and Blue Potato Salad, Smoked Salmon Squares, Chicken Satay Bites and the ganache for my Chocolate-Raspberry Mousse Cake. All just in time to make it to the party one hour late. But with all the food. Which I then spent the next several hours serving. In a cute cocktail dress and very uncomfortable shoes.

All of this was okay, and moderately manageable…until the very end when a certain board member of the art studio (the very one who approached The Brit and proposed that we harness the popularity of the annual Oscars party, which we usually hold at our house free of charge to the invitees, and turn it into a fundraiser for her art studio) started having a public conniption about the fact that the party hadn’t generated as much money as she’d expected and how it was all just a waste of effort and how she’d put SO much work into it all and boo hoo friggin’ hoo. Thank goodness there weren’t any bacon stuffed pepperocini’s left over because I might have shoved them somewhere unsavory. And thank goodness for the fact that I was too tired to shove one of my painfully edematous and throbbing feet anywhere as well.

Instead, I silently applauded my restraint (promising myself a nice piece of cheese as a reward) and headed back home with The Brit, in the rain, with a car full of dirty dishes to a kitchen full of filthy dishes. Which we then cleaned. Til 1 AM.

Back to work

I need a big nap. But first, some cheese...

1. I'd love to provide the link to this recipe but can't seem to find it online. Only have the hard copy in Bon Appetit magazine. SO good.
2. A term of endearment developed in our younger years...back when were too young to appreciate that ten years later, it might not be so fun to be introduced to a friend's family & friends and have them say: "Ohhh, right!! You're one of the ho's!!!"

3. He'd already made the Spinach Dip, Cheesy Onion Roll-Ups, Crunchy Chicken Bites, Chickpea Salad with Parsley, Lemon, and Sun-dried Tomatoes, Greek Pasta Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Feta, Rice Salad with Feta, Citrus and Mint, Stuffed Pepperocinis, Mushroom Shallot Quiche, and Pistacchio Brittle Cheesecake.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Sometimes their buns ain't so bad either...

I leaned in and asked in my best sultry, suggestive voice, “What’s the difference between a hot Sicilian and a hot Italian?”

“Uhh…” he stammered, caught off-guard. “The hot Sicilian has fennel in it.”

“Oh, great! Well then I’ll take two!”

And with that, a hot Sicilian sausage dinner was had. Complete with sauteed onions and peppers and warm, toasty buns. And beer. (And for the record, the fennel makes ALL the difference. I suggest you demand this from all of your hot Sicilians in the future.)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Play music...not with peoples' lives

While in my car, I usually either listen to one of the 5 CD’s I haven’t changed since I put them in there (which was when I bought the car 3 years ago) or to NPR. But one morning recently, I’d had enough of Postal Service and had already listened to the morning news round that was on it’s second go of airtime on NPR. So I turned my radio to one of the local radio stations, one that has a very popular morning show. And I quickly realized why I haven’t made a habit of this...

I’m not sure if it was luck or planetary aligning karma, but at the exact moment I turned to the station, one of the two morning DJ’s began speaking, with absolutely NO knowledge, on this 'great' new weight loss procedure: The Stomach Balloon. It wasn’t so much the “Oh! My! God! I am, like, totally going to get that! What a totally, like, fantastic idea! Eat all the food you want, like, and get full faster! I TOTALLY want one!” that annoyed me. I mean, it was annoying to hear a perfectly grown woman speaking with all the aptitude of a 13-year-old who knows better but just wants to be cool. And forget the fact that this balloon, while it may be a temporizing measure for weight loss, it does not change one’s lifestyle. Anyone who’s lost weight and kept weight off knows that it’s the healthy decisions that you make everyday going forward that make it happen. Not some balloon you put in and then take out a few months later. Anyway, what was really annoying about the segment, was that this DJ then said, “Where can I GET one of those?? Oh?!? They’re only in Europe? Hmm…maybe I’ll just go home and swallow a balloon!”

Oh, for the LOVE. I envisioned a whole bunch of desperate overweight women beginning the day with a seemingly harmless morning radio show and ending it with a visit to the ER. Thankfully, at least to my knowledge, there were no adverse events due to that extremely ignorant broadcast.

The reason this broadcast bothered me is because I think that TV and radio has an obligation, to a certain degree, to report responsibly. Which is to say, that if they don’t know about something, something that could harm someone, they should either NOT talk about it, talk about it but with the disclaimer that they are perhaps not well-informed, or investigate it properly before talking about it. Seems like common sense to me. In an ideal world, where the truth sells more than sensationalism, of course....

And in this ideal world, things like what happened in Sacramento, California recently wouldn’t happen. The morning DJ’s on a popular radio station there held a “Hold your wee for a Wii” contest in which the contestants had to drink as much water as possible without urinating or vomiting. Little did these DJ's know, even water is not innocuous. And despite the fact that a nurse even called into the show and told them that drinking too much water could be dangerous, they continued on with the contest. And because of it, a 28-year-old wife and mother of three small children died. All because she drank so much water that she decreased the osmotic pressure of her blood which, among other things, causes brain swelling that can be, and in this case was, lethal. And all for a Nintendo Wii.

I think Robert Browning put it best: “Ignorance is not innocence, but sin.”

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I'd like to thank the Academy for this honor...

It seems that in addition to the many surgical procedures at which I’ve become skilled during my residency, there is another procedure with which I am also apparently very familiar: Open mouth, insert foot. This, I learned at a recent out-ing…one in which I played a starring role. If there were an Oscar for Best Leading Idiot, I think I’d have a good chance of winning…

Allow me to set the stage with a brief prologue: Vinja decided a few months back to randomly subscribe to a few magazines to help out some neighborhood kid trying to raise money through subscription sales. One of the 12 magazines that seems to pile up on our kitchen counter almost daily (only slightly exaggerated) is Out Magazine. This, for those of you who don’t know, is a magazine that touts itself as “A gay and lesbian perspective on style, entertainment, fashion, the arts, politics, culture and the world at large.” Which I am ALL for as the men and women offering their aforementioned informed perpective in said magazine are greased up and gooooood lookin’. (And I’ve always been of the opinion that a little body grease helps get a point across that much more effectively.) A gay friend, Huerequeque, came over, perused the latest Out magazine, and found (amongst the smorgasbord of delicious manmeat) a great one-page article on how to select a good sake wine. He tore it out and considered giving it to one of his coworkers who’d recently asked for his advice on a good Japanese brand of sake. Considered it, that is, until he turned the page over and saw that there were a few small details that might ‘out’ him to his coworker. One of those details being that it actually said, in small print, “Out” at the bottom of the page. The other of those details being the full-page underwear ad featuring the lubed-up torsos of two fine male specimens (both with cullions of curiously large proportions) who were tenderly holding hands. We agreed that this might give him away. So he kept the ad to himself. Umm…I mean the sake article. *cough* He kept the article to himself. *cough*

Fast forward to a dinner a couple months later at which I am in attendance along with Huerequeque and some of his coworkers, some of whom are mutual friends, others of whom are perfect strangers. One of those strangers, Mr. Straight-Laced Protestant White Male Married With Children, was sitting across from me at the dinner table. The sake, selected by the knowledgable Huerequeque, was flowing. As was the conversation. And somehow, somehow Mr. SLPWMMWC turned the conversation toward the topic of Huerequeque’s proclivities. Don’t ask me how. All I know is that I had little to do with how the converstion started and everything to do with how it ended…

As if scripted, I said to Mr. SLPWMMWC, “Oh, me and Huerequeque go waaaaaaayyyyy back! So I know ALL ABOUT his proclivities!!!!” [Obnoxiously loud laugh.]

“Oh yeah??” Mr. SLPWMMWC joked back at me. “So you know about all the catholic school girls he brings back home with him?? HA HA HA…”

“Catholic school girls?? HA!!” I chortled. “More like CATHOLIC SCHOOL BOYS!!!!!” [Even bigger obnoxious laugh.]

Oh God. What a twit.

Now, in my defense, there was sake involved. Lots. (So, clearly I am the victim here. It’s all Huerequeque’s fault. For ordering such good sake.) And this conversation, including my blunder, occurred almost too quickly for me to even appreciate the momentary look of shock on Mr. Straight-Laced Protestant While Male Married With Children’s face. He scrambled, just as quickly as I’d gaffed, to change the subject. But by then I realized just how much of my foot I’d stuck into my mouth. The only reason my entire leg didn’t go in is because I have pretty sizable thighs. And though my mouth is big, my thighs are bigger.

After a moderate amount of gagging to get my foot dislodged from my pharynx, I leaned over to Huerequeque who was sitting next to me and whispered (out of earshot of Mr. SLPWMMWC who was busily talking someone else’s ear off about his two beautiful, straight, God-fearing children who loved sports and church), “Sooooo….I probably wasn’t supposed to have said that, huh?”

“Yeah, NO,” he smirked. “But I suppose it’s not anything that wouldn’t have come out eventually anyway.”

I nodded, thankful that he was so gracious as to roll with the punches. “Well, let’s look on the bright side,” I said, “I guess now you can give him that article on sake!”

Monday, February 19, 2007

Check out the size of my lugnuts...

This is for all you ladies out there who think that changing flat tires is a job for solely the menfolk. I just did it.1 All by myself.2 In my house slippers.3

It’s important to know how to change a tire. And I’ll tell you why. With a hypothetical example: You’re driving along on the freeway. You feel a strange change of weight in the back passenger side area of your car, and look out your passenger side window just in time to see your hub cap spinning off into Never Never Land. (Never to be recaptured.) You slow down, pull over to the right shoulder of the freeway, get out of the passeng
er side (to avoid getting killed by the fast moving traffic in the left lane next to you) and examine the flat tire before you. Bummer. Crawl back in, and drive slowly to the next exit, which you take and then make a series of right turns looking for somewhere quiet to park and call for help. You park. Look around. And realize you’ve landed at a fire station. Where a hot, young, tall, dark fireman comes out to change your tire for you.4

No, wait. Crap. It would seem I’ve dug out an argument for NOT knowing how to change a tire. Hang on. Allow me to start over.

Ok. So you’re on the side of the freeway, alone, with a flat tire. No exit for miles. No cell phone reception. And some creepy guy with a wife beater on and a tattoo that says “Money over Bitches” across his right arm pulls over and offers to help you. Having no idea how to change your tire and with few other options for help, you accept his offer. After which, he pummels you on the side of the head, knocks you out, does a number of other unsavory things to you before he kills you, thus making you the next tragic headline on the evening news. See how this can unfurl into disaster so quickly? All because you didn’t know how to change a tire??5

So here’s my advice to you ladies. Read your car’s instruction manual. Know where your jack and spare tire are. And when you think you don’t have the upper body strength to loosen or tighten your lugnuts? Use your lower body strength. That’s what I did; I literally put the Thingy To Unscrew The Lugnuts onto the lugnut (I love saying that word) and stood on the handle to unscrew it with the weight of my body. And I did the same to screw them back on. Voila!

And, now you can beat those creepies, the ones that prey on women who don’t know shit about cars, about the head with your jack! Turns out it has many purposes!

I am woman! Hear me roar!6

1. Under the supervision of my trusty, and very manly, roommate, Mr. Wonderful. (Who gets his name because he was a living donor for his father when he needed a liver transplant. It doesn’t get more wonderful than that.) I had Mr. Wonderful around just to make sure I didn’t kill myself with an ill-positioned jack.
2. Only because I had to.
The Brit is still out of town on business.
3. Seriously.
I was in my house slippers.
4.This actually happened to me about 8 years ago. Sadly, he did not take off his shirt while he performed this manly duty.
Despite the fact that I suggested he do so. You know, it was hot outside.
5. Thankfully, this is not what happened to me. (Though I have encountered a man with a wife beater and a similar tattoo.
At work, in the ER.) I simply came out one morning to go to work and found a flat tire.
Though, let’s be clear here. Next time this happens to me, if The Brit is in town, he’ll change the tire. :)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Dear Offender of Follicular Decency,

Psssst!! [Whispered, urgently:] Hey. You with the desperation spread sparsely across your head. Let’s step into my office and have a brief chat…

[Close door.]

Ok. So, I understand the need to cling, like a leach to supple flesh, to your former youthful self. I, for one, cannot claim to be immune to the desire to remain 21 in corporeal years, while still aging like a fine wine on the inside. With the big Three Ohhhhhhh lurking around the corner, me and my eye cream understand, completely. Trust me. However. This does not mean that I cavort around town screaming “OMG, I like, totally LOVE Forever 21!!!” while donning something spandexy and hot pink that I purchased at Forever 21. And, more importantly, it does not mean that if Mother Nature decided to rob me of the long and feminine tresses with which I’ve always been blessed, that my retaliation against her would consist of this:Aside from the fact that this is a total perversion of what hair was originally intended for, it’s also a symbol of something so much more pathetic than that: Desperation. And there it is, spackled across your balding cranium for all the world to see. Little do you know that those few strands which you’ve asked to do the job of a half-head of hair are as good as placing a banner across your lengthening forehead that says, in bold type, “I’d rather look like this than admit to myself that I’m losing my hair.” (Substitute “this” with “a sad, middle-aged man grasping with white knuckles at the last hope for a full head of hair.”)

You’re not fooling anyone. Not even you, Donald Trump.

Or you, Benny Hinn. Seriously, even though both of you do some sort of clever circa-70’s feathering trick with your thinning hair, it’s obvious what you’re hiding under there. And, frankly, it’s just sad.

It’s not like there aren’t options out there for you. And, that
, Dear Offender of Follicular Decency, is what I’ve followed you three city blocks to pull you aside and discuss with you. See, you’re a special case: You’ve gone beyond the usual offense of pulling a thin veil of side hair over the top, and have started dipping into the back and bottom-most section of hair to do so. And I just cannot, with good conscience, allow you to continue on without telling you first that there are solutions.

There are toupes, hair implants, wigs. But perhaps the best thing, for everyone involved, would be for you to just bravely shave it all off. It’s a big step, I know. But just think of all the money you will save on hair products. And, you should know by now, that Britney Spears did it. So, now it’s the cool thing to do anyway. (Just don’t go showing your labia around town while you’re at it, though you don’t have any, so that shouldn’t be a problem.)

Anyway, please. I beg of you. Do the right thing. You’ll feel better. And besides, if you wouldn’t do it to your dog, why would you do it to yourself?
You wouldn’t, would you?

With love (tough love),
La Cubana Gringa

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Japan is fantastic, part ni thru…

This post comes to you after having had a horrid, horrid week…in a sort of ridiculous- OH-MY-GOD-can-this-get-any-worse- do-I-really-have-a-flat-tire-after-all-that-I-have-already-suffered-???? sort of way. I’m sure I’ll write about it at some point. But first, the unfinished business of Japan.
Having said my piece about the sheer joy of my repeated encounters with heated toilet seats while in Japan recently, allow me to pick up where I left off in my list of all things wonderful about my trip. Now where was I…

Oh yes, the bathroom. Of course.

As if a warm bum weren’t enough to bring pure bliss to the already satisfying experienc
e of expelling unneeded bodily waste, the Japanese thought of one additional thing to, if nothing else, entertain you while in the restroom. Allow me to introduce you to:

Ni: The Bidet, digitally remasteredNow, the bidet is not a new concept. I’ve certainly seen my fair share in Latin-America, not to mention in the bathroom of my anal retentively clean grandmother. (No pun intended.) But THIS one went above and beyond the usual bone-chilling squirt to the perineum. First of all, it wasn’t cold at all. It was the perfect temperature. And second of all, it wasn’t just a water rinse. On the contrare, there was a warm rinse followed by an apricot-scented sudsy episode followed by another warm rinse. The only thing missing was an automated arm to pat me dry. But not to worry, I put that suggestion in the ideas box just outside the bathroom door.

In between my long, luxurious rests in the various bathrooms of Japan (you now understand why), I did manage to squeeze in a few hours of sightseeing a day. And my my my if there weren’t sights to see in Tokyo.

San: Neon
The Japanese looooooooooooove them some Neon. I’m talking Neon approaching levels which could provoke seizures in even the most cataract-protected 80 year old Vegas stripper. And that’s serious neon. It was magnificent in the sense that I now know what it’s like to be on the inside of a pinball machine.

Shi: Vending machines.
I came to the conclusion that perhaps the only thing that the Japanese valued more than neon was the ability to quench their thirst (or their itch for a cigarette) any time of day or night that they wanted. This, I concluded after taking notice of the fact that there seemed to be vending machines about every ten feet. And I’m not talking just in the city center…even in the small residential neighborhoods, in between the houses, on the corners, in the bathrooms. (Ok, not really in the bathrooms...though that would be one more nice thing about them if it were true!) And they were always stocked with an assortment of sugary soft drinks, beer, and cigarettes. I daresay that if we vended such addiction hazards to our country’s youth without so much as an ID check, we’d have an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, alcoholism, and smoking. Oh wait. We already do. (Which begs the question, why don’t the Japanese?)

Go: Unrecognizable food

Boiled starchy items. Pink gelatinous balls. Bento boxes-to-go with various selections of edible matter that have clearly either been popped out of a mold or stamped out of a sheet of mushed-together digestible substances. Interesting. Verrrrry interesting.

Roku: Flat booties
By and large, or more appropriately stated, by and small, the Japanese have absolutely NO junk in the trunk. Which is to say that I stood out like a sore thumb. Or a sore bum, rather. Which I was ok with. It just meant I had to be realistic about the potential for shopping for jeans in that country….that potential being zero.

Shichi: Deep tradition
Coming from a culture that has it’s own traditions, I could really appreciate this. And, in fact, this is what I loved most about my trip to Japan. While the heated toilet seats were lovely, the beauty and the richness of the history in the country was my favorite thing about Japan. Nothing, not even The Brit’s insistence on playing and replaying of the soundtrack to The Last Samurai (I’ve mentioned his love of movie scores before, haven’t I?), could take away from this.

A very lovely trip. Thanks, to my dear Brit, who made it happen! (And who also took most of these pics!)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Because shared misery is THAT much funnier

In the spirit of the one day of the year in which we regard it perfectly acceptable for a pudgy little pervert with wings to flitter about and shoot an arrow into our pocketbooks (uhh, I mean hearts), may I direct your attention to this new blog: It's not me, it's you!

Permit me this one shameless plug as this is, in fact, a blog that my dear Dochechka (who chooses to remain an enigma to me in her selection of Innigma as her pen name) and I have started. We do so in the hopes of creating a safe environment in which to poke fun of ourselves and at The Perpetual and Unavoidable Act of Awkward Social Flailing and Blundering (known to most people as the act of Dating).

We've cast out our first tales of failure on the Battlefield of Love (Dochechka's with Mr. Sexessity and mine with Dr. Ferrari) and we do hope you enjoy them. Then, we hope you dig deep into your experiences, go on...dig, and share with us the most atrocious dating story in your personal arsenal. I'd like to start the tagging with declaring here and now that I expect great things from my dearest
Waspgoddess and Mr. Poopie. Then, I leave it in your capable hands to tag the next authors. (Note: Tagging is not required for authorship...if you've got a story, we want to hear it! Send it in!)

Happy Feb 14th.

*The above pic of cupid was borrowed from
this funny valentine's day card site. Check it out.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Foolproof remedy for insomnia of the jetlagged variety

Just follow these 5 easy steps:

1)Lay down in your bed, with your most comfy jammies on, all room lights off and eyes closed

2) Become mindful of your breathing, relaaaaaaaaxing into each deep, slow breath...appreciate how with each one, your heart rate gently decelerates

3) Feel the weight of your body on your mattress…so much so that you’d swear you were paralyzed under your own exhausted weightiness

4) After 45 minutes, when you finally realize that this Mind Over Body crap isn’t going to work, climb up the stairs to the kitchen and open up a bottle of Argentinian red wine and drink roughly 1/3 of it

5) Nightie night

Oh. And I should probably tell you that there’s also a Step 6: Wake up after 45 minutes with a full bladder (thanks to all that wine) and repeat steps 1-5 all over again. Dammit.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The seedy underbelly of the frequent flyers, exposed

The continuation of “Japan is fantastic”, entitled “Part ni thru…(whatever number I can manage to count up to in Japanese)” will have to wait until I can get home and put the pictures together as so much of what I have to say about this Japan trip must be accompanied by a photograph. Try as I may with words, I just don’t think I could do justice to the new things I saw, and particularly to the new things I ate. Those bright pink cubes of indeterminableness must be allowed their own moment of glory by means of a picture.

As of right now, however, I’m currently reclining in a comfortable leather chair enjoying free wireless internet access, free alcohol, and free snacks. You wouldn’t think I’d be describing the Narita airport, or any other airport for that matter. But I am. It’s just the part of the airport that us commonfolk never get to see: The Luxury Lounge. You know, the place where all the platinum and gold card holding members of the friendly skies get to enter, leaving us economy classers behind to claw at the gold plated doors. I’m usually one of those sad individuals, but today…today, instead of clawing my way in only to be forcefully removed by security, I glided right through the doors upon the invitation of The Brit, who is, in fact, a frequent flyer and a sworn member of this secret society (hence my free ticket to Japan in the first place).

I, La Cubana Gringa, am reporting to you live from said Luxury Lounge…and I must say [while shaking my head disapprovingly] that I am utterly appalled by what I see. Vast open spaces, dimly lit and pleasing to the eye. Comfortable, spacious seating, all with electric plugs for laptop computers. Paintings and glass blown sculptures from local artists displayed much as they would be, and probably should be, in a museum. The replacement of the typical horribly drab elevator music (usually punctuated with obscenely loud and yet indecipherable flight announcements) with no music at all and only the occasional soft, sultry, clear voice announcing the next flight. There’s also the periodicals section, in which they have countless copies of all the major newspapers free for the taking. Then there’s the beer machine. A beer machine, you ask? Yes. A machine in which you place the chilled pint glass which you’ve selected out of the adjacent fully stocked refrigerator and place it onto the platform which is then tipped ever so gently to a 30 degree angle whilst the machine pours the perfect pint of beer and tops it off with the perfect amount of foam. Every time. (Trust me, I’ve “tested” it several times now.) Sadly, there is no such similar contraption to make the perfect vodka tonic, but I suppose [sigh] that the fact that I can pour myself a bottomless vodka tonic an adequate alternative. And then there’s the fruit. And the cheese. And the crackers. And the cheese. And the little packets of pretzels/nuts/spiced-conglomerates-of-carb-material. And the cheese. Add a hot male stripper and they could start hosting bachelorette parties here!

I can’t BELIEVE The Brit and all of his brothers and sisters in the frequent flyer society have been holding out on us like this! Appalled, I say!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go figure out how to smuggle an assortment of cheeses, a full bottle of Grey Goose and another of Johnnie Walker Blue Label onto the plane with me. There’s no telling when they’ll let me in one of these lounges again. Wish me luck.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Japan is fantastic, part ichi

I will have much to report about Japan when all is said and done. But before I'll have the time to devote to a proper recounting of this bombardment of the senses with all things so wonderfully Japanese, there is one thing above all else that has made a warm first impression on me. And it can be best summed up in three words:

Heated. Toilet. Seats.

They're everywhere. And oh my gooooooodness! My buns have never known anything so divine! If the Japanese ever intend for me to go back to my country, then they should probably stop serving me so much green tea with my meals. Because green tea leads to a full bladder which leads to at least half an hour in a bathroom taking full advantage of the seat. One can miss a plane in circumstances such as this!

Off to Kyoto for the weekend. Hmmm....I wonder if they have heated toilet seats there too...

PS - Sharon & Waspgoddess, the comb-over story you requested earlier is forthcoming as I saw the worst of offenders in the streets to Shinjuku the other day. I even managed to sneak a picture of the offense. Ooooh, just you wait!!

Monday, February 5, 2007

In sickness and in health, with one itty bitty testy exception

A compendium of the most recent health issues I’ve been asked to address and/or examine by friends and family who I (for the most part and under normal circumstances) care greatly about:

Dochechka’s healing surgical incision. (Looks lovely, by the way.)

Abuelito’s lower back sebaceous cyst. (Not quite as lovely. Charming, I think, would be more fitting.)

Vinja’s through-and-through dog bite to the left ear. (Not kidding.) (I suppose that’s what he gets for ignoring all of my persistent medical advice to stop hanging bacon from his earlobes.)

Blossom’s local anesthetic needs for a very large tattoo. (She wanted to know if I considered it safe for her friend (a dentist) to do the anesthesia on her back. Considering there are no teeth on her back, I advised against this.) (Also not kidding.)

[Will remain unnamed]’s scrotal abscess. (I SO wish I was kidding.) (Thank goodness this consultation was solicited from long distance via the telephone. My advice to this individual: Uhhh…you should go see a doctor for that.)

This last encounter has inspired what will be the caveat to all future consultations by loved ones and acquaintances. I hate to have to do this, gentlemen, but from here on out, when someone asks for my advice, my agreement will require the acceptance of the following terms: Keep your boils, your scrotums, and your scrotal boils away from me. Sorry, ladies, I suppose to be fair, you’ll have to keep your ovaries away from me too.

In other non-scrotal news: I go to Japan tomorrow! Yippee!!

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Negotiating the terms of our Pre-Shopping Agreement

A recent instant message conversation between my dear Dochechka (still recovering from her back surgery) who minimizes bending by using this grabber to pick things up…

Me: Any interest in getting into a wheelchair and shopping with me this weekend?
Me: We could probably put a potty right underneath the seat so that you can just poop WHILE you shop

Dochechka: YESSSSS!! Take me AWAY!
Dochechka: Will you help me try pants on?

Me: No
Me: That’s what your grabber is for

Dochechka: Yeah, but I am NOT bringing it to the store!!
Dochechka: Duh

Me: Whatevs
Me: You’re no fun

Dochechka: What? You want me to bring my grabber??
Dochechka: Only if I get to grab your ass and boobs all the time

Me: Deal

Note 1: We love to shop. And, additionally, we love to be regular. Hence the references to poop.
Note 2: Yes. We are adults.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

He uses his frequent flyer miles on me, so it MUST be love...

As if I needed proof beyond the fact that he’s put up with my obnoxiousness for over two years...

Here’s yet another reason why I know The Brit digs me: He has to go to Japan on business next week. And I get to go too.* Airfare covered by ff miles. Hotel covered by [Insert name of The Brit’s job here].

Nuh uh!! you say??

Ya huh!! I say.

I’m not precisely sure what I did to deserve this, but I have a feeling it might have something to do with the fact that I can stuff 13 full-sized marshmallows in my mouth and still say “chubby bunny.” (It’s a little-known fact.) Oh, and the fact that I can shake it like a Polaroid picture.

Woo hoo! Japan! In three days!

* My usual surgical residency schedule wouldn’t permit me to just fly by the seat of my pants like this. But since I’m on a research schedule these days (until June 2008) and much of the work I do can be done via the series of tubes, I can. And it’s a good thing, because I have a big seat. One that, thanks to spandex, fits into these pants. And I do like to fly by them.