Category Archives: Conversating

Getting Hooked Up

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A Cuban musician friend had asked me how my timbales playing was going. I told him about meeting Ramoncito Ramos and that he’d offered to teach me if I didn’t live so far south. My friend proceeded to call over his band mate, a timbales player. He said the guy was a fantastic musician and asked if he would be willing to show me some things. The guy asked who I had been learning from and admitted that I didn’t have the best teacher. He agreed to teach me what he could and gave me his number and told me what days were good for him.

My Friend: Kikita, you know I love you and I just want you to succeed and be happy. You are amazing and I am so glad to know you. Just don’t forget me when you’re famous.

I was speechless. I was overwhelmed by the awesomeness of the moment.

I had confessed to this friend that I had the beginnings of a crush on one of the newer additions to our group. We are pretty close so I’ve confessed more than just new crushes to this friend. We have real talks about hopes and fears and everything in between. I had mentioned to him on more than one occasion that I was starting to worry about getting older and being nowhere near getting married and having a family. He has two sons that are the light of his life, but he admits that he wishes he wasn’t that far along yet and that I should enjoy my freedom and singlehood.

Later, I was basking in the sound of our little group of friends talking (because, is there anything better than the sound of Cuban men conversating? No, I don’t think so.) when my crush asked how many kids my friend had…

My Friend: I have two boys. They are trouble makers, but amazing and I adore them. What about you? Do you have kids?
My Crush: No, not yet. Hopefully, one day…
My Friend: No? You know, Kikita here doesn’t have any kids either, but she’d make a great mom. You two would have beautiful kids together.

I’m not sure which was worse, that he said it, or that the rest of our circle agreed with him so vocally.

I had no idea my dreams meant so much to my friend.

Acting Like an Americana

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Remember my friend, El Loco, from Vegas?

El Loco: Oye, Kikita! How are you, mi hermanita?

Me: Great, thanks! It’s been a while…

El Loco: I know! Things have been super crazy. Oye, hermanita, I know you are playing timbales now and I know you have your teacher, but I want to do something special for you. I want you to learn from the best and I know the guy who plays for [a local L.A. band] and he plays everything and is very good and lives close to you so he could teach you, but I don’t know if you want to because you have your teacher.

Me: Wow. I… I mean… That would be awesome.

El Loco: So, I don’t know what you want but if you want… Or what?

Me: No! That sounds great! How do we do it? How much does he cost?

El Loco: I’m sorry. If you’re busy and you don’t want to talk, it’s ok. I can talk to you later. Kikita, why are you talking to me like an Americana?

I retracted the question and we proceeded to talk about other things and I redeemed myself. The beginning of the conversation had been mostly in English, but we eventually switched to Spanish. I was already having a hard time hearing him and he was super excited and talking fast and…. let’s just say I’m not really sure what he said but I think it was something like this…

El Loco: So, you know I’ve been doing the quinceñera for my daughter, right? And it’s been getting really expensive and everything so I was talking to my mom and she’s going to help me out and it’s going to be easier if we do it there so KIKITA YOU ARE INVITED TO IT!! AUGUST 26TH!! IT WILL BE MY FIRST TIME BACK IN MY HOME TOWN SINCE I LEFT CUBA!!

Me: Seriously?

El Loco: CLAROOOOOOOOOO!!! OF COURSE! IT WOULDN’T BE THE SAME WITHOUT YOU THERE? WILL YOU COME, HERMANA?

Me: Of course! I’d love to!

(The Americana in me wanted to ask if I had to buy my own ticket to Cuba and how long we’d be gone, but she had learned her lesson.)

He’ll be in town for the Cuban Independence Day party at Steven’s Steakhouse next Friday. I plan to get answers to all of my Americana questions then.

Not My Baby

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An (African) Ex: How are you, my sister?
Me: GREAT! How is your beautiful baby daughter?
Him: My daughter is as cute as can be!
Me: I can’t wait to meet her!
Him: Come over! She looks more like you than me.

Ummm… Yeah, I guess so…

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My Prima

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When I was much younger, a cousin came from New York to visit.
I thought she was the coolest.
She had this amazing style. Somehow she could wear black and not look like some gothic anything.
This was pre-Matrix, but she didn’t look like she came from there.
When I grew up, I wanted to be her.
I became enamored of all things New York and fell in love with the color black.

As I grew older I found my own style, but always held a special place in my heart for that mysterious cousin in black.
Eventually, she became a distant memory that came flying forward during one of my trips to Miami.
She and I met for breakfast at Versailles on Calle Ocho and spent the day together.
She was still so New York.
She was exactly the way I remembered her.
I still thought she was super cool.

When I was in Miami preparing for my trip to Cuba, she was there for me asking about what hopes and expectations I had for my trip.
When I came back, she was there to ask how it went.

When I wanted to move there, it would have been to her house.
(If I can find a way to move there in the next few years, it will be to her house first while looking for a place of my own.)

On this latest trip, it was her house I stayed in.
She went out of her way to make me feel comfortable and welcome and at home.
And I so did.

She gave me so much more than a place to sleep in between my many Miami adventures, she gave me her time and her energy and her ears.

She has this line she says (with all the excitement you can imagine) that I just love: I am going to say nothing and you tell me everything! 

She is super thoughtful and aware and gives so much of herself I was overwhelmed by how loved I felt.

She took me to breakfast (at Versailles on Calle 8, of course) and we talked.
She took me shopping to be sure I would have my café in the mornings when she wasn’t there.
She took me to the beach and we talked.

Not just any beach, either.  She took me to “El Farito” (The Lighthouse) on Key Biscayne which is “a classic Cuban beach” because she understood how much I love doing Cuban things.

We talked A LOT. About everything. She asked me HOW I could POSSIBLY read at the beach when I was surrounded by such beauty?
She asked what it was like for me in California.
She asked if I wanted to go to South Beach.
She shared her life experiences with me.

She is fiercely Cuban and fiercely American and fiercely New York and … well, she’s fierce.
She still wears black. In Miami.
I love that she has maintained her New York cool in one of the hottest cities in the continental U.S.

There were moments when she made me want to cry because she recalled something I had said years before and asked me how I felt about it now. Deep things and how had they changed for better or worse?

She listened.

Sometimes she didn’t agree with something I said, but it didn’t matter because I knew she was still hearing me.

I didn’t realize what a rare thing that was for me until I was presented with it.

She worked hard to ensure that my trip was everything I had hoped it would be.
There were moments where it was almost difficult for me to receive such an outpouring of “What do you want? I’ll try to make it happen.” Not that she ever uttered those exact words, but there were moments that I would just be sharing my reflections on one experience or another and, like magic, she could see past the thought into some deep desire I had and would try to make it happen for me. I can’t even explain it. Sometimes she could see what I wanted even better than I could.

She was telling me about a place that had “Cuban Sushi” and my face must have lit up because later she asked if I would like to go there and when we tried to go and the place was closed, she found another place with “Cuban-inspired Maki” and we went there instead. While we were there, I asked what Sake tasted like because I’d never had it. She described it to me, but then ordered some for us to share so that I could try it. It was such a small thing, and yet it was huge.

She had never been to Carnaval on The Mile and was happy to join me for part of it.
She felt comfortable enough to leave me enjoying a band while she went to check out a few different vendors (including her landlord who makes jewelry and had a booth there). She patiently sat on a bench while I danced to my heart’s content to the band I had flown across the country to see (Conjunto Progreso).

I find her incredibly inspiring. She is amazing in ways that I can only hope to be.
She is genuine and sweet and beyond intelligent.
I consider myself lucky to be related to her.

I had plenty of other magical experiences on my trip, but if all I had done was spent the few days I did with my Prima then I would have considered it a wonderful trip.

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.

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?