Pig Eyes and Fire Alarms

I’ve returned from my family reunion in North Carolina with great memories and a higher alcohol tolerance. I hadn’t seen most of my extended family for almost a decade, before I was even a teenager, so it was basically like meeting them all over again. Luckily, any bit of awkwardness disappeared very quickly, and it was like we had only seen each other yesterday. The “Reunion de Cabezones” was a big party. (“Cabezones” because the family is notoriously stubborn and hard-headed.)  In typical Cuban fashion, we ate a lot, drank a lot, and talked REALLY LOUD.  It was fun because us “kids” were now older.  We had animated discussions about everything under the sun, made fun of my Floridian cousin’s Southern accent, played beer pong, and initiated another cousin’s non-Cuban friend into the family with the consumption of…wait for it…a pig eye.

Before you gasp, there really is no such initiation.  It is indeed Cuban tradition to roast a pig for large gatherings and celebrations.  A whole pig, so yes, it still has legs, tail, ears, skin, and head.  When it was put on the table, most of us drooled over prospect of crunching into the delicious crispy skin (sorry vegetarians, but it’s soooo good), but some, like my cousin’s friend, were a little jarred by the appearance (it was her first pig roast.)  Another one of my cousins, an evil genius, declared that it was Cuban tradition to eat one of the eyes at your first pig roast.  The friend looked skeptical, but everybody nodded and agreed, “Oh yeah…we’ve all done it before…it’s tradition…”

My cousin got a plastic spoon and scooped out one of the eyes, which due to roasting was just a shriveled black chunk in the eye socket. (Afterwards, he told us that he was getting really grossed out while trying to get it out, but knew it’d be worth it.)  He handed it to her on the spoon, gave her a can of beer, and to our surprise she tossed it in her mouth and washed it down like an Advil.  We all burst out into a mixture of laughs and groans of disgust, and finally told her it was all a lie.  She was dumbstruck for a moment and color raced to her cheeks until she finally found the words to remonstrate our cruelty.  Luckily, she wasn’t terribly angr.  She was impressed and amazed that we all knew to go along with it.  Only the bonds of family could pull off such spontaneous trickery.  We dared another one of my cousins to eat the other eye and she did it, because she will basically do anything if you dare her to.  Her verdict?  It just tasted like really chewy, bouncy pork.

“So there’s the pig eye. What’s this about a fire alarm?” you might ask.

Well, the downside of the reunion was that my grandfather had to be rushed to the hospital the second day.  He had a really hard time breathing when he woke up; turns out he had a mild heart attack and his kidneys weren’t functioning properly.  (He’s doing better now.)  He still wanted us to go on with the reunion, but we visited him in the hospital periodically.  While my grandmother was visiting, she came across one of those clear glass doors that you have to open with a button on the wall–you know the kind because you use them even though you’re not handicapped (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!)  There was a man on the other side motioning to her to open the door, at least that’s what she thought.  She looked at a red lever on the wall and pulled it.  Then the fire alarm rang.

Yes, my grandmother pulled a fire alarm. In a hospital.

My mother saw her bouncing down the hallway with a cheeky little smile on her face, her hands folded neatly under chest, and instantly she knew that she had SOMETHING to do with it.  Somehow she didn’t get caught.  Mom said she saw the man behind the door explaining what happened to a group of security guards.  So, as you can imagine, my family told her not to touch ANYTHING else in the hospital.  A few moments later, she tried opening another door by pressing the rubber door stopper on the wall.  Ay.

It was definitely a reunion to remember, and I certainly hope I don’t go another ten years without seeing everyone again.

UPDATE:  My grandmother did indeed get caught.  When she went back to visit my grandfather, a police officer took her to a room and showed her that they had her on camera pulling the fire alarm.  (God, I would totally YouTube that shit if I could get a hold of it!)  He explained to her that she committed a serious crime.  She apologized in her broken English profusely, proclaiming repeatedly, “I no from here.”  Thankfully they let her off with a warning and made her promise that she’d never do it again.


Jerry Rivera serenades me in Central Park

Ok, so Jerry Rivera didn’t serenade me in particular.  More like all of the swooning women that braved the unforgiving heat of midsummer to see him.  Central Park’s Summer Stage series brought some Carribean flavor to the Park with Jerry Rivera, Magic Juan, Bachata Heightz, and N’Klabe.  I arrived late, not quite knowing where  to find Rumsey Playfield, the site of the Summer Stage, but when I entered the park, all I had to do was follow the music.

I ended up missing the first act, N’Klabe.  I got there as the mcees, a chubby short man and two hot twins from a radio station show (Lulu and Lala from 105.9, Luis Jimenez, I believe…) were stalling between artists.  Next up was Magic Juan, who was a good performer and sang his song, “Baby Come Back,” in addition to “El Tiburon” (sigue! sigue! no pares!), which everyone but me knew the words to.  I had to laugh when he asked the audience to put up L’s  for “Latino”…you know, the 90s hand signal for loser.  So, we had a crowd of latinos flashing loser signs.  My friend and I joked about starting that trend back at Vandy, because we’re kind of retarded like that.

Magic Juan
Magic Juan

Next was a group called Bachata Heightz that played Bachata music (Imagine that!).  They had that typical whiny effeminate Aventura voice, but bachata is bachata so I danced and enjoyed anyway.  As a side note, I do like Aventura, but damn, that whiny “mio mio mio mio mio mio” gets on my nerves! …and now it’s stuck in my head.

Finally, after a very long break, Jerry Rivera came on stage, and the crowd when wild  Continue reading Jerry Rivera serenades me in Central Park

The Rain It Raineth Everyday

The best piece of advice I got before coming to New York for the summer was not, “Don’t walk around alone at night” or “Watch out for murderous taxis.”  It was this:  “Always carry an umbrella.”  It rained pretty much the entire month of June, so my mini-umbrella was hardly ever inside my purse.  Of course, there are those days when umbrellas are completely useless, when the rain seems to be falling from the ground instead of the sky.

Normally, I love rain.  I find it comforting and soothing.  It feels amazing running in the rain.  On purpose.  Not when you to have ride a train an hour plus back to Jersey in soaked work clothes.  I hate rain in New York.  It makes it uncomfortable to walk anywhere, so it stifles most plans.  Outdoor events get canceled.  Strange men hawk umbrellas to you.  Lakes cleverly disguise themselves as puddles.

I have a friend from New York who loves the smell of wet cement because it reminds him of home.  Rain only reminds me of home when it smells like trees and wind.  I remember one time I was doing yoga in my tree-filled backyard one day and just as I was relaxing in my final pose I heard the rush of rain approaching and suddenly I could smell our magnolia tree intensely.  It was kind of magical.  In New York, rain is not so magical.  But it is still New York, which this small town girl still finds magical.

Shakespeare, William Shakespeare

Yesterday was my lucky day.  I was at work, dreadfully tired due to lack of sleep, and looking forward to going home and getting into bed early.  Everyday, I’ve been putting myself in the virtual line for 12th Night, just to see if perchance I’d get tickets and be able to see it again.  After over a week of rejections, I pretty much figured the virtual line was a hoax.  Anyway, I kept putting myself in the lottery.  Much later, forgetting that I had applied, I checked to see if I got tics, and lo and behold…the writing was green, not rejection red, “Congratulations!!!”  I gasped, and momentarily mourned the fact I’d get virtually no sleep that night (play’s done late and commute to Jersey is long).  I invited by friend Angela to come along.

We met up by Gate 3 of the Delacourt Theatre, sitting on a bench, talking, and waiting for them to start letting people in.  I was doing a lot of people watching, as always, and I look up and saw a man.  It took me three seconds for it to dawn on me who I was looking at.

Second 1:  That man looks familiar…

Second 2: Wait, I think that’s…


I elbowed Angela and told her.  We grinned and silently giggled like fangirls while he walked around a bit, finally settling on standing RIGHT NEXT TO US.  He is a gorgeous man.  I’ve always thought he was handsome, but in person it’s like a whole ‘nother level.  He is tall, distinguished, and of course, really really ridiculously good-looking.  He’s the sexiest old man I’ve seen.  We didn’t bother him of course because he was there to enjoy a play obviously.  Some lady asked for a picture and he said, “No. No, thank you. No.”

It was my first time seeing a celebrity in the real world, and it was in New York City, in Central Park, with tickets I scored with sheer luck.  It really was my lucky day.  The play was just as good as the first time (I think I could see it every night!) and I left with the same full bliss as before, walking out in Central Park wanting to be in love.  Not looking for love though.  After all, in the fair Olivia’s words:

Love sought is good, but given unsought is better.  —Twelfth Night, 3. 1

Twelfth Night

Saw 12th Night featuring Anne Hathaway in Central Park today.  It was beyond amazing.  Best Shakespeare I’ve seen.  It happens to be my favorite Shakespeare play.  But it’s late now, so not many details to give.  I’ll leave a favorite quote from the play, one of many.

What is love? ’tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.