Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Color of Pan Tostado

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Me: Abuela, I met a guy from Nicaragua.

Abuela: Oh si? What was he like? I don’t know any Nicaraguans. Did he look native? Asian?

Me: No, he looked like us! So white you wouldn’t know until he started talking in Spanish.

Abuela: I’m not white. I’m pan tostado [toast]. You’re white because you’re only half, but I’m not white.

Me: What are you talking about? You’re whiter than a ghost!

Abuela: No, I’m toast.

Me: Speaking of pan tostado… I met a Cuban guy, too.

Abuela: Oh si? White like you?

Me: No, he was the color of pan tostado just like Papi was! Plus, he’s from your hometown.

Abuela: I’m just as toasty as Papi was. Look at this color! It’s the color of toast. Maybe if you marry the Cuban, your children will have this nice color. My first three children got that pan tostado coloring. But Aunta (and your mother) was super white. Porcelain almost. My mother was pan tostado like me.

Me: I’ll let him know that we’re getting married and having pan tostado children.

Kikita’s Kryptonite

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Men in white suits.

*swoon*

Then again… “suit” isn’t really required…
Men wearing any form of white tend to have the same effect on me…

Sitting around wearing white, well, only half wearing white, or even half-dressed … in white… yeah…

But really a white suit is nothing without a
double-staircase… and a trumpet…

*purrrrrrrrr*

Dodger Stadium

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On Monday night, I had way too much energy and thought it would be great to go dancing, but couldn’t think of where to go on a Monday night so I went for a walk instead. Well, a walk interspersed with running so I was a hot and sweaty mess by the time I was finished.

Just as I was getting home, my phone rang, “Oye, Cuquita [koo-kee-tah: little paper doll]!! Que bola?!? What are you doing tonight, baby? I just got into town! Let’s go to Floridita!

Damn it. Of course. I had forgotten the best place to go on a Monday night for dancing.
Plus, I hadn’t seen this buddy of mine since he had suggested I get up on stage and represent my Cuban roots so it was a double-bummer.

Being too ridiculously tired to dance (and mildly irritated at being called a pet name), I countered with a suggestion for going dancing on Tuesday. “Ok, Kikita linda, don’t worry. I know the best place! We can go tomorrow no problem!

After church group on Tuesday, I called him and canceled.
5 minutes later, I called back and told him I’d changed my mind.
In those 5 minutes, his ride had left, so if I still wanted to go, I had to pick him up, “But don’t worry, mi Cuquita, I am only 5 minutes away from esteven’s.

Ok, so I got the address, put it into my phone’s GPS and I was off.
Since this was just going dancing with a buddy and Not A Date, I texted another buddy and let him know I’d be there, “Ok, sexy, but I’m leaving at 11 so hurry!” (Apparently, my buddies had not received the message that if you are just an un-interested buddy, you should not be using terms of endearment.)

A buddy from church started sending me lines from a TV Show we both love which was messing with my GPS.
My dad was emailing me about some other thing which was also messing with my GPS.
My buddy who was already dancing was chatty which was ALSO messing with my GPS.

I missed my exit.
I was now lost in some part of Los Angeles that a beautiful blonde should probably not be lost.
I pulled over to get my GPS working.
I got back on the freeway.
People kept texting me.
My GPS crapped out again.
I looked up and I was at the gates of Dodger Stadium.
I’ve never been to Dodger Stadium.

I finally found my Visiting Buddy’s house, and we were off!

Visiting Buddy: I saw your boyfriend the other day! Well, your ex!
Me: Ummm… which one?
Me (to myself): Which of my exs would he even know?
Visiting Buddy: Do you remember Fulano’s dad?
Me: What the … why are you calling him my boyfriend?
Visiting Buddy: Didn’t he take you outside once and …
Me: OH. MAH. GOODNESS. YES!! He pulled out ‘CUBA’ and kept telling me to touch it. Damn, for an old man… Seriously, it was bigger than my forearm!
Visiting Buddy: HAHAHAHAHA!! Ay! Honey, that was the turn back there…

We missed three turns while talking about … “CUBA.”

Finally, we made it to esteven’s and my Dance Buddy bogarted me for two songs. He would have gone for three, but I felt bad double-dancing when I hadn’t seen my Visiting Buddy in so long. Dance Buddy left and I turned my attention back to my Visiting Buddy.
Since the place was pretty empty, people couldn’t help but stare at two Cubans doing their thing.
And I couldn’t believe how much I’d never known about him… like that he’d been a political prisoner, or part of the Cuban military, or that he was a Bounty Hunter in Vegas. UN.REAL.

On the ride back to his house (well, his brother’s house), I mentioned how much I LOVE cigars. His brother just happened to have some and would love to give me one, but “Come here, Cuquita, I want to show you something first.

The something required a hike.
Did I mention I was wearing 5″ platforms?
It turns out I am quite stubborn.
Bounty Hunter: I’ll carry you. Trust me, I can do it.
Me: Hell no. I want to do it myself.
And I did.
When we got to the top of the hill it was a breath-taking view of L.A., particularly … Dodger Stadium.

Bounty Hunter: Look, Kikita! Whenever my brother or I miss Cuba, we come up here and it reminds of being home.
Me: It really is beautiful. And I was just thinking to myself this morning… you know what I want to do tonight? See Dodger Stadium.
Bounty Hunter: Ay, Cuquita! You are too funny! Since we’re Cuban, I knew you would love to see a baseball stadium, but look at the moon! I bet no one has ever shown you the moon before either… isn’t it romaaantic?
Me: You’re right. I have NEVER seen the moon before. It’s SOOOO romantic.
Me (too myself): Cubans. Baseball. The man had a point… Uh oh. This buddy is about to make his move out of the “buddy” zone… shit, shit, SHIT!

Bounty Hunter the Visiting Buddy made his move and now his intentions were clear. Apparently, I had been On a Date and completely missed it.
After a brief interlude (VERY brief because there was no way I was going to let this Bounty Hunter get anywhere at the top of a hill in the middle of the night), I mentioned that it was a school night and I needed to go. Going down a hill in 5″ platforms is even MORE difficult than going up, so I finally gave in and let him carry me down.

When we got to the house, his brother was waiting for us.
Bounty Hunter: Hermano! This is the lovely Kikita, she’s Cuban like us and loves cigars. Can you hook her up?

And he did.

I stayed for another 20 minutes out of sheer politeness. One doesn’t accept such a fine gift without spending time visiting for a while, but once hands started to get a little more handsy, it was my cue.

Bounty Hunter: Can I see you tomorrow? Or when are you coming to Vegas? I can get you a free room, just let me know. Ay, Kikita! Do you have any idea how amazing you are?
Me: Thank you for everything. Especially the cigar… AND for showing me Dodger Stadium.
Me (to myself): Yeah… just a little. 😉

A few days later I would find out I had been given the Best. Cigar. Ever.
Dodger Stadium and a delicious cigar, what more could a girl ask for?

The Dentist

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I was at work translating a benefit summary (the list of medical/dental/vision procedures covered by one’s insurance) and I came across a word that I had NO IDEA how to say in Spanish.

Root Canal.

So I checked a few online translators, but I was fairly certain that “endodoncia” wasn’t quite specific enough for what I wanted.

I asked a Spanish-speaking co-worker. He didn’t know either.
I asked the people in our call center. They didn’t know.

I became determined to find out the word.

I remembered that O.D. Churroman had a cousin who was a dentist so she MUST know. Yet another reason to be bummed that he was still not speaking to me.

LIGHTBULB!

That one Colombian friend of mine that I casually blew off all of last year because I wanted to stay just friends! He was a dentist! Perfect!

I called.

(The following conversation took place in Spanish, but has been translated for the non-Spanish readers.)

The Dentist: Alo?
Me: Hey, chico! How are you?
The Dentist: Hey! Kikita la Cubanita! It’s been a while! Where have you been?
Me: I know! I’ve been working. Speaking of work, I have a question… how do you say “root canal” in Spanish?
The Dentist: Transamiento de conducto.
Me:  Perfect! Thank you so much!
The Dentist: When am I going to see you again?
Me: … soon!
The Dentist: Monday?
Me: I have plans.
The Dentist: Thursday?
Me: I have drums.
The Dentist: 2013?
Me: Sounds great!

When you love what you do, you’ll go that extra mile. 🙂

A Cuban-American Valentine’s Day

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On February 14, 1961 (51 years ago today), my family arrived in the United States from Cuba, completely unaware that they would never be going back.

My abuelo had arrived in the United States about a month earlier with my Tía Helen.
He had left in a rush because che guevara had already blown up one of my abuelo’s cars, arrested my abuelo and his crew while they were working, and che guevara even had some of my abuelo’s men executed the next morning. (Needless to say, che guevara is not my favorite person and I cannot stand people that sport his image or try to tell me what kind of revolutionary hero he was.) My abuelo moved quickly and flew to Miami with my tía where she had to get the small house they’d found ready for the rest of the family’s arrival.

February 14, 1961 was my abuelo’s 50th birthday.

Yes, I know it’s Valentine’s Day, but can you imagine a better Valentine’s Day gift and birthday present than being reunited with your family?

Every year I am floored by that. He started a brand new life, in a brand new country, that spoke a different language, with 7 other mouths to feed.

My abuelo was wholly Cuban. He was a patriot. He wanted to fight and restore the Cuban 1942 constitution.

But once he was here and it became obvious he wasn’t going back, he was just as fiercely American as he was Cuban.
He was so proud to get his citizenship.
He was proud to be part of a country that welcomed him and his family with opened arms.
He knew he owed America a huge debt.

I heard another Cuban man say it like this, “We can never repay America for what it has given us.”

For as often as I celebrate being Cuban, I consider myself lucky to be American, too.
And in order to honor an American holiday while celebrating my Cuban anniversary (of sorts), I baked.
Because with Cubans, it’s all about food and café and what could be more Cuban-American than Pastelitos de Guayaba (Guava Pastries) and Nestle’s Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies?

As far as me having a Valentine… that’s tough because part of my heart is elsewhere, like in that song Celia Cruz sings

Nunca podré morirme,
mi corazón no lo tengo aquí.
Alguién me está esperando,
me está aguardando que vuelva aquí.

Cuando salí de Cuba,
dejé mi vida, dejé mi amor.
Cuando salí de Cuba,
dejé enterrado mi corazón.

Late y sigue latiendo
porque la tierra vida le da,
pero llegará un día
en que mi mano lo encontrará.

Cuando salí de Cuba,
dejé mi vida, dejé mi amor.
Cuando salí de Cuba,
dejé enterrado mi corazón.

Cuba
aunque me encuentra lejos de ti
añoro el verde de tus campos
el azul de tu cielo
el agua clara de tus playas
y lo ardiente de tu sol

Una triste tormenta
te está azotando sin descansar
pero el sol de tus hijos
pronto la calma te hará alcanzar.

Cuando salí de Cuba,
dejé mi vida, dejé mi amor.
Cuando salí de Cuba,
dejé enterrado mi corazón. 

Cuando salí de Cuba,
dejé mi madre, dejé mi amor.
Cuando salí de Cuba,
dejé enterrado mi corazón. 

Cuando salí de Cuba,
dejé su cielo, dejé su sol.
Cuando salí de Cuba,
dejé enterrado mi corazón.

I can never die,
my heart is not here.
Someone is waiting for me,
is waiting for my return.

When I left Cuba,
I left my life, I left my love.
When I left Cuba,
I left my heart buried.

Beating and still beating
for the earth gives life,
but one day
my hand will find it.

When I left Cuba,
I left my life, I left my love.
When I left Cuba,
I left my heart buried.

Cuba
even though I find myself far away from you
I miss the green of your farms
the blue of your sky
the clear water of your beaches
and the burning of your sun 

A sad storm
is beating you without stopping
but the sun of your children
will soon make you reach the calm.

When I left Cuba,
I left my life, I left my love.
When I left Cuba,
I left my heart buried.

When I left Cuba,
I left my mother, I left my love.
When I left Cuba,
I left my heart buried.

When I left Cuba,
I left its sky, I left its sun.
When I left Cuba,
I left my heart buried.

I may have been born in the United States, but I must have been born with half a heart because I feel like a piece of it is still on an island 90 miles off the coast of Florida. And I know that there are plenty of Cuban-Americans that know the exact feeling I’m talking about.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

My brave abuelos while they were still in Cuba. This is absolutely my favorite picture of them.
Funny, romantic, and courageous.

¿Y Ahora Qué?

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I was dying to go dancing.
I knew where I wanted to go, but it was just far enough that just going and hoping to find people to dance with was not necessarily something I wanted to risk.
On the other hand, I knew there would be a live band and I knew some “friends” (SEE: Exs) would be playing so it’s not exactly like I would be ALONE alone.

I asked a friend, but he couldn’t come.
I asked a buddy I knew was there all the time, but he wasn’t going.

So I went alone.

When I walked in, my attention was immediately captured by a dancer I’d never seen before. And I decided I would dance with him before the night was over.

I found my “friends” and sat down with them. Of course, they were sitting with the Cuban from a few weeks ago who had proposed to me and his girlfriend. She was so quiet and barely looked me in the eye. I wondered if she hated me under pure suspicion of what had transpired a few weeks ago. Shrugging it off, I sat and chatted happily and then my “friends” got up to play, so I got up to dance.

During the next break, I made my way back to the table and … what was this? The dancer I had lost track of was sitting there! PERFECT!

After being introduced, I found out that not only was The Dancer a Cuban, he was the BEST FRIEND of the Cuban with the girlfriend. Awesome.

My “friends” got up to play again, the Cuban got up to dance with his girlfriend and I was left alone with The Dancer.
That was when The Challenge came up:
The Dancer: You drove 45 minutes for this?!?
Me: Sure, why not?
The Dancer: I would never drive 45 minutes for anything. Especially not this.
Me (to myself): Uh huh, we’ll see about that.
Me (to him): Ok, well, let’s dance.
The Dancer: You’re boyfriend won’t get jealous?
Me: First of all, he’s not my boyfriend. Second, even if he was, no… he likes to share.

Half a dance later…
The Dancer: Ok, maybe I would drive 45 minutes for THIS…
Me (to myself): I win.
Me (to him): Good to know, but don’t get any ideas of driving anytime soon…
The Dancer: How soon is soon? What are you doing tomorrow?
Me: I’m busy. And soon is, at least, March.

The night ended with a text informing me that I had no idea what I was missing, but hopefully I’d be willing to find out soon. If I had a nickel …

My plans for Friday night fell through, right along with my Saturday night plans.
I had been dying to go dancing at a Cuban place in Hollywood and had convinced a buddy of mine to be willing to make the drive with me on Saturday night, but he ended up having to work.

I sent The Dancer a message on Friday night saying that I might be available, but would let him know in an hour.
I admit, my intentions had been less than honorable. I really just wanted to win again. I had no intention of going anywhere Friday night.

He won.
He said he was going to a Cuban place in Hollywood and would love for me to meet him there.
Damn it. I hadn’t planned for that one. It was the one thing I couldn’t say no to.

It was another magic evening.
The girlfriend and her Cuban boyfriend were there and she was suddenly my best friend.
I was being introduced to all kinds of people and everyone found me to be the amazing person I am.

The Dancer and I danced and talked and it was great.
And the more we talked, the more amazing it was.
He even said that wonderfully cliché line of: Where have you been hiding all this time?

So I was winning, until he answered his own question and things took a turn for the worse: That’s right, you’ve been behind a cloud of darkness.
Me: Excuse me?
The Dancer: Don’t try to tell me there was nothing going on between you and that negro last night. [Negro as in the Spanish word for “black.”]
Me: Well, not last night, but once upon a time, sure. That was years ago, though.
The Dancer: How could you do that? You are so much better than that. Don’t tell me you’re actually attracted to negros?
Me: Seriously?
The Dancer: I’m sorry, but I don’t eat where a negro has eaten. I’m giving you this one chance because there’s just something about you, but consider yourself SUPER lucky!

I was instructed to text when I got home safely and that he would call me the next day, which surprised me since he didn’t seem to be able to get past my past.

And I guess he didn’t have the guts to tell me that to my face, because he never did call…

I can’t help but go back and forth between feeling irritated at such stupidity and totally ashamed of my choices from 5 years ago.

¿Y ahora qué?
So, now what?