Tag Archives: being Cuban

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.

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?

¿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?

Technically, it was Friday

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Him: You’re Cuban?
Me: Yeap.
Him: Me too! How is it that a Cubana as gorgeous as you is single?
Me: I…
Him: I’ve always wanted to marry a Cubana. How old are you?
Me: 28 … and a 1/2.
Him: You’re perfect! Will you go out with me?
Me: Grac….
Him (interrupting): I like you’re hair. If I called you, would you answer?
Me: Well…
Him (interrupting, again): You’re very pretty. Will you marry me?
Me: Aren’t you here with someone?
Him: Well, yeah… But she’s not Cuban and I just met my future wife.

What I should have said: I’m only 1/2 Cuban.

O.D. Churroman and French Toast a lo Cubano

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I love churros.

A. LOT.

I used to have a date with myself on Friday nights where I would go to Disneyland for a churro and a coke and then just sit and people watch. Sometimes I’d catch a parade, too. Sometimes I’d ride a ride or two. Sometimes I’d just walk around. But I always had a churro. I went for the churros.

And then I learned that Cuban churros are not the same as the churros that are sold at the Magic Kingdom. They are not as crunchy or as long. They don’t have the same taste. And Cuban churros don’t have cinnamon on them, just sugar.

Plus, you’re supposed to eat them with thick hot chocolate.  You know the saying “We go together like peas and carrots“? Well, in Cuban the saying is “We go together like churros and chocolate.”

Having learned about these churros, I was dying to try them, but here in Southern California they are impossible to come by. The only place to get them is from the kitchen of a Cuban who knows how to make them.

I found myself in Miami for a few days before going to Cuba. And some close friends of mine took me to have my first churros con chocolate in Hialeah. (Basically, it doesn’t get much more Cuban than that.)

Months later, I would be craving them again. So I asked Mami to make them… in August, which (apparently) is just not done.
Me: Mami, can you make churros?
Mami: Churros are a winter thing!
Me: Ok.

Me: I really want churros, but Mami says they’re a winter thing.
A Certan Stubborn Bear that shall hereafter be referred to as O.D. Churroman: She’s right, they’re usually a winter thing, but I’ll make you churros if you want. Nobody’s churros are as good as mine.

Of course, it didn’t happen. O.D. Churroman and I lost touch. Life moved on. And it was winter again. And I asked Mami for churros. And churros didn’t happen. And then Mr. O.D. Churroman showed up again, in January, and I still wanted churros.

He made me churros.
Not just any churros, either.
These were special.
He remembered that I was a lactard (SEE: Lactose Intolerant) and made the churros with Lactaid.
They were the best churros I’ve ever had.

In March, he made them again. And taught me how. And showed me his secret ingredient. And then we burned them.
In September things got complicated and came to an abrupt halt.

I asked Mami to make churros again because I can’t remember the measurements O.D. Churroman told me.
She said she would. And she also told me about an idea she had for Cuban-style French Toast using Crema de Vie (SEE: Cuban Egg Nog) instead of just eggs and milk. It sounded great, but (like the churros) it didn’t happen.

I haven’t made French toast since I was maybe 6 years old and my father was explaining to me how to do it, but I am being BRAVE this year.

I pulled out the Crema de Vie, bread, a frying pan, and I got to work.

“Work” is putting it loosely, it was one of the easiest things I’ve tried to make.

Mami had wanted to make it with Cuban bread leftover from Christmas.
I didn’t have any, so I used sourdough.

I can’t tell you how delicious it was.
Crema de Vie is a winter thing, (especifically Christmas), but if I crave French Toast a lo Cubano in August, I’m going to make it.

The Cuban French Toast definitely helped with my craving, but I can’t help it…

I still want churros.

 

La Vie en Rose OR Kikita’s Happy New Year

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I didn’t really want to go to Palm Springs.

Ok, yes I did… sort of.

I thought it would be fun. Until I had this long week that kept getting longer and then all I wanted was to stay home, alone.

And I didn’t think it would happen.

I had heard my abuela would be home. Which is fine. She just watches the ball drop and then goes to bed, but I was a little embarrassed to have anyone witness me doing all of my silly traditions.

So, because I wasn’t entirely sure how my New Year’s Eve 2011 was going to go, I decided to begin celebrating early. So I went to dinner with a buddy of mine who had also had a long and hard week. We went out for Cuban food because he’s nice and knows how much I like it (and because EVERYONE loves Cuban food – it’s delicious). And then we went dancing. Well… we went to a local place that plays salsa and bachata music, but we didn’t dance much because it was stupid crowded and neither one of us really felt like dancing anyway. (However, I DID run into my timbales teacher and we danced a salsa – he is what I like to call a “stop motion dancer” and I had a tough time following him, especially since he was trying to dance “on 2,” and worried that he was judging me and thinking, “Damn, esta Cubana doesn’t have any rhythm so I have my work cut out for me – and later we danced a cha cha. Since I knew he was an “on 2” dancer I knew he would be fun for a cha cha and I had no other options because I am picky about who I cha cha with and my favorite person wasn’t there and the 2 other people I tolerate were also not there.)

Anyway, I left early, went home, and watched TV until I fell asleep.

Today I woke up with a splitting headache. It was practically a repeat of Halloween and I was less than thrilled. So I spent most of the day in bed which was what I had planned on doing anyway, but now it was because my head hurt.

Around 6pm I decided that I needed to take a shower and at least attempt to feel human again. My Aunt Alina (I call her “Aunta”) was on abuela patrol, but abuela was demanding to stay home until midnight and watch the ball drop. So we sat and chatted and I decided it was time for some evening Taka Taka. By the time I was finished making the café, I was feeling better and abuela had decided she was tired and ready to go.

As I set the red tacita on the table for abuela, I noticed there was a giant rose in a vase from the Gemini rose bush I bought for her years ago.
And the chicken salad (that is cute, but looks unedible) she makes every year had a red flower on it instead of her usual clock almost at midnight.
And this year the grapes were red.
And the little bottle of champagne I had bought for myself was called “Rose  Regale.”

And she referred to Aunta as her “Red Rose.” (I had never heard that before.)
I don’t believe in coincidence.
And I have no idea what all this rose stuff means, but it makes me hopeful for 2012. I am sure it means SOMETHING. And I get to spend the whole year finding out what!

And since every year I have a theme song, I have chosen THIS as my theme song for 2012. (or maybe it chose me?)

Because I couldn’t wait for my “Vie en Rose” to start, I celebrated “On Cuban Time” at 9pm.
I dressed up.
I wore the orange with hot pink lace white polka-dotted thong instead of yellow or red.
I ate grapes.
I toasted with my rose champagne and said “El año que viene, estamos en Cuba.”

(Please forgive the blurriness and try not to blame the champagne. Let’s blame the running around like a crazy person and trying to document the moment instead.)

I ran outside with a bag over my shoulder and all the way to my mailbox to put money inside (in 5″ sparky heels, no less).
I didn’t have a bucket of dirty water handy because I didn’t mop the floors so instead I took a couple of used coffee cups from this morning, filled them with water, and dumped that water out.

I’m leaving the bag outside and the money in the mailbox until morning.

I came back inside, changed into yoga pants, and played my timbales for an hour.

I am successfully Kikitiando my way through another New Year’s Eve.

Plus, look who made a guest appearance tonight?