Tag Archives: dancing

A Different Kind of Brave


My word for the year is BRAVE.

Another way to say BRAVE would be FEARLESS.

I am not trying to force it, I want it to just be the way I am. I want to fully embrace it.

But I have been missing a huge piece of it.

Here’s how I’ve been practicing being BRAVE:

Me: Hey [Friend who rides a motorcycle]! I have never ridden a motorcycle before! Would you take me for a ride?
Friend: Sure!

Unfortunately, we have rescheduled this ride so many times, it might be next year before it finally happens.

Speed dating! That was a way to be BRAVE.

But I have been confronted with new ways to be BRAVE and it is a lot tougher than I thought it would be.

The truth is that I am at church twice a week. O_O
And I keep that suuuuuper quiet. It’s like I’m ashamed to admit it.

A few Saturday nights ago, I went out dancing and happened to be wearing all white. I looked like a santera.
And some santería guy noticed.
And he wanted to talk religion with me.
It was like he was trying to impress me with how much he knew about Santería.
And it felt like he just wanted to connect with someone on that level.
So I let him talk. I let him think I was a santera. I made understanding sounds about the ritual dances. I told him to keep quiet about the chicken sacrifices because “People just don’t understand, you know?

It had been my moment to be BRAVE and admit that, while I love Afro-Cuban dances and know about Santería, I don’t practice it. That I, in fact, go to church and believe in the whole Jesus thing. BRAVE fail.

Why should I care what some bad ass dancer thinks of me? (Ok, the answer would be that there is a considerable shortage of bad ass dancers out there and if one shuns me then that is one less I get to dance with and one shunn could lead to more shuns and I’d be left with only a couple of good dancers to dance with and would spend most of my nights sitting and waiting until it was my turn to dance with them again.)

Obviously, I have my work cut out for me.

Being BRAVE is harder than I thought.

Being BRAVE isn’t about jumping out of planes or riding motorcycles, it’s about facing the scary things and sometimes the scariest things to face are other people.

My Prima


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.

Life as a Rockstar


I know plenty of musicians. There is only one or two that I would ever refer to as rockstars, but that is beside the point.

I think a huge part of being a rockstar is about your attitude, how you carry yourself, and how you present yourself.

I never considered myself a rockstar… until recently. I was much better at being a groupie. I made the best groupie. I was that girl you loved to have at your show because it was so obvious how much I loved the music. Musicians love their music and so they love it when someone else loves their music.

Some musicians hide their true-selves under a facade of deep thoughts. These are not rockstars. These are tortured artists.

One can be an artist and a rockstar, but you don’t have to be a rockstar to be an artist. (In fact, there are plenty of rockstars that are NOT artists, but I won’t name any names here.)

Rockstars have a quiet confidence about them. They KNOW they are awesome and, more often than not, can be seen enjoying the music they are making just as much as the audience. They also know how to connect and engage with their audience in ways that the tortured artists are sometimes too afraid (or too distracted by their own music) to do.

My friend, Michael Pancier, is a different kind of artist; he’s a photographer (Yes, of course, he’s a musician, too.) and was kind enough to take me on a photoshoot while I was in Miami.

He made me feel like a rockstar shooting  an album cover.

Here are some of my favorite shots from our shoot. (The ones that I think best capture me… or just make me look like the bad ass timbalera that I am now. 😉 )

(Seriously, doesn’t this one look like an album cover?)

And here are my two absolute favorites:

Dodger Stadium


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?


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?

He Dropped Me


It was a long day.

I had an early meeting. I had projects to finish. I had projects to start. I had Cuban coffee to drink.

Somehow my boss convinced the VP to go to lunch at my new favorite Cuban place (Bella Cuba) and so what is usually lunch at my desk became two hours of not being at work with the added bonus of the VP mentioning how much “Kiki LOOOOOVES chocolate” (and he wasn’t talking about my eating habits – though how he learned about that I’m not sure because all three people I’ve dated since being at the company have been … *ahem* vanilla).

As I was finally leaving the office, LATE, the wind howled and stole the last drops of café that were in my cup… and proceeded to spray them onto my favorite pair of white pants.

I hurried home to change into a pair of less favorite jeans so that I could hurry to the cd release party of an African girlfriend of mine.

I called an old BFF to make sure he was going. He was. We walked in together, but then an ex of his pulled him away just in time for me to see the ex-girlfriend of an ex of mine. She was absolutely thrilled to see me and demanded we take a picture together. Why not? Now there is a permanent record for me to review and wonder how the hell I ever ended up following an act like hers…

After the picture, I turn to greet a few other old friends and then see the pregnant wife of another ex. Of course, she has no idea of my ex status because when she and I met everyone thought I was with my BFF (when, in fact, it was his roommate I was with… ish). She is super sweet and absolutely adorable, but I get the sense that she’s not entirely thrilled to be pregnant and is worried that her mixed baby is going to come out less-than gorgeous. After hugging her and catching up a bit on her and then on everyone else who has had babies lately and everyone who was about to have babies, I found my old BFF again and we went looking for seats.

He had someone he wanted me to meet and started steering me in that direction. Of course, the friend he wanted me to meet was sitting right in front of the pregnant wife and her husband (my ex).

The break-up conversation that led to this ex becoming my ex was simple, to the point (something along the lines of “Kiki, you deserve better than what I have to offer you right now“), and we stayed friends. Since this was several years ago, certain things shouldn’t bother me, right? Of course, right!

My Ex With The Pregnant Wife: KIKITA!! It’s wonderful to see you! You’re beautiful! Do you know that? Really! You are so beautiful, and you have a beautiful heart and are just an amazing and beautiful person. Have I told you how beautiful you are?
Me: Not today…
My Ex With The Pregnant Wife: Come! Sit with us!
Me (to myself): You have GOT to be kidding me right now.

It was a spectacular concert. And the sound was done by the awesome Cuban guy from my church because the world is really that small and my night wasn’t weird enough.

Meanwhile… on my phone…

Dance Buddy: Hey there sexy lady! What are you up to?
Me: At a concert having a weird moment.
Me (to myself): I’m sorry, who gave you permission to call me “sexy lady”?
Dance Buddy: Oh, sorry to hear that baby! Just imagine I’m there dancing with you.
Me: Ha!
Me (to myself): Baby? Seriously? And this whole time I thought he was gay…

After the concert, but before leaving…

My Ex With The Pregnant Wife: Kikita, you know you need to have a mixed baby.
Me: Yeah, ok. I’ll get right on that.
My Ex With The Pregnant Wife: Why not [your old BFF]?
Me: That will never happen. Beyond not being attracted to him, when I turned 25 and freaked out about getting old, I asked him to be my back-up plan. If I turned 30 and didn’t have any prospects, I asked him to have a kid with me. Of course he agreed, but then we spent the next 6 months discussing baby names and were never able to agree on anything. So, even if I WANTED to have a kid with him, which I don’t, we could never name it.
My Ex With The Pregnant Wife: You are too much. Poor guy. He’s really awesome.

A little while later, some other individual came up to introduce himself to me. We ended up having quite a bit in common, including a penchant for learning new languages. My Ex With The Pregnant Wife  overheard us going from Arabic to English to Spanish and was kind of amazed.

My Ex With The Pregnant Wife (to the new guy): Kikita is an amazing woman. She’s really quite brilliant. Kikita! Have you ever tested for your IQ? She likes to pretend she’s not very smart because she’s blond, but really she is brilliant.

I guess the sales pitch worked because when some of the other girls asked if we could all go to a nearby dance place (which just happened to be my Sunday night hang-out), the new guy was happy to come along. And fearless about dancing even though he wasn’t very good.

My old BFF pulled me aside: Kiki! You have to dance! I’ve told everyone what a great dancer you are!

No pressure.

Luckily, one of my Sunday night buddies was there. He’s a bit odd, but fun to dance with so that’s all that really matters. We were dancing, but joking around a lot, too. Somewhere in the middle of the dance, he dipped me. No one ever dips me, which I understand, there’s a lot of me to dip.

Well, this kid dipped me, and then we kept dancing.
And then the song ended.
And he dipped me again.
And I am not sure exactly what happened…

He might have tripped me.
Or I might have lost my balance.
Or he wasn’t supporting me…

Whatever the reason, I found myself on the ground… sort of.

I really don’t even know how it happened. I was on the ground, so I knew I had fallen (or had been dropped).

But the kid hadn’t fallen on top of me.

And then he did.

And I didn’t think it was possible, but I fell MORE.

And I think we sort of rolled…

And I couldn’t stop laughing.

He dropped me.
He dipped me.
And he dropped me.

I’d never been dropped before…. Well, not LITERALLY dropped.

Obviously, all the exs of the evening had dropped me at some point…. figuratively speaking.

The lesson: You are going to get dropped and even if it doesn’t hurt too much at the time, you’ll still find bruises.


Kings of Salsa


One of the guys at my work recently found out I was Cuban and told me about a Cuban show called “Kings of Salsa” that was happening in San Diego that same weekend. He was not going, but thought I might be interested in it seeing as I’m Cuban and I dance, too.

The description was a dance group from Cuba thatdanced all the classic styles: mambo, cha cha, guaguanco, rumba, and, of course, salsa.

So I did a bit of research and found THIS video, which looked like some seriuos Cuban dancing to me. (No, I am not so shallow that I watched it and immediately bought my ticket. :-p)

I debated for a long time, but ultimately decided that my regular Sunday night dance plan would be there next week and it might be fun to see what looked like timba dancing. Honestly, I was a little worried that I would get irritated just sitting and watching other people dance all night, but then I remembered that I do plenty of that if I go out and not enough of my friends are there so why not watch other people for a night?

I bought my ticket, drove down, and was having a lovely little date with myself so I shared as much on Facebook – with a photo.

Idiot #1: Why by yourself?
To Myself: Nngghh. Because I’d rather be alone than talking to idiots like you. What do you want me to say? There was no one that I knew would be available to do this with me that I would actually want to share the moment with. Now leave me alone, I’m trying to enjoy my moment.
Me: Because I’m so much fun to hang out with!

Idiot #2: Why didn’t you invite me? I would have gone with you!
To Myself: Because I would hate for you to get the wrong idea and I’d rather be alone than on a pseudo date with you.
Me: Because you’re not Cuban. I didn’t think you would be interested. 😉

Not-Quite-Idiot #3: I’m at [the place we always go dancing on Sunday nights]. FYI, you’re not here. 🙂
To Myself: Damn, I’m surrounded by old people and this show is much more “modern dance” than it is salsa… I almost wish I was there.
Me: You didn’t invite me.

The show was pretty good, but it wasn’t really salsa. It was salsafied modern dance. The rolling-around-on-the-floor-and-not-quite-ballet kiind of dance. Of course, there was a moment when they invited people on stage to join them and I did. That was really the only moment it was too bad I was by myself, because no one was there to document the moment. (Then again, that could be considered a good thing…)

As I was walking to my car, a couple of different people stopped me and told me that they really enjoyed watching me dance.

How could they not?