Archive | April, 2012


17 Apr

It all happened very fast.

One minute he was standing there, smiling, and the next… it was as if I had kicked my own grandpa in the face. — I had, actually. Accidentally. With a soccer ball. At very close range. A thousand miles an hour. Straight into his nose. My own grandpa. Who came out to support my high school club team, on a chilly fall afternoon. Was it spring? The story is timeless. Despite a black eye (and I am pretty sure I did not break his nose), he would – jokingly – never let me live it down.

And then there was my sister, who wrote a school essay once about how Pop-Pop was her hero.

Somehow, he loved us both. More than we ever deserved.

Pop-Pop died yesterday morning in Lancaster, PA. Right now, I’m in LA. I could be here, or in another Universe. I couldn’t feel farther away from my family.

He passed away quickly. Unexpectedly to some of us. Because even though he was 86, I thought he would live forever. So did my sister. I want to fill this with facts and numbers about how awesome my Pop-Pop was. So you get the idea that he wasn’t just a rickety old grand-dad in a rocker who gave us hard candies when we visited and then fell asleep all day. He was Pop-Pop: Action Grandpa. And he wasn’t just mine and my cousins’ grandfather. It was like he was everyone’s Pop-Pop.

Here are my truths about him. No need to check them. They are all true.

Pop-Pop was always 65 years old, for all 34 years that I knew him. And he definitely lived for 300 years before I was born. He came to all 2,000 of my soccer games. 300 orchestra performances.  Graduations from things, birthday parties. And just about everyone else’s, too. We saw him every day growing up. We had sleepovers at their house, long summer afternoons by their pool — with snacks of fresh fruit, Wheat Thins and Pop-Pop’s signature oj+cranberry+Sprite, I think it was…

He wore short shorts, high stripey socks, Nikes, a polo and a fishing hat. Or dress slacks and sweaters with button down shirts or suit jackets. He played tennis really well. He had a silver ring he never took off. He liked vanilla ice cream with peanuts or pretzels on it. Big Band. He served in the Navy on a huge ship called the USS Solomon. He played trumpet. He was a really good dancer, especially at Nissley Vineyards with a live jazz band and a cup of their white “Rhapsody In Blue”. We could call 717-285-4519 (I still know the key tones in my mind) any time and he or Ma-Ma would answer and be up for lunch, a swim, a movie — or anything, if they could. He loved to joke with us. And laugh. And he would always tell us that he loved us.

Once, on a visit back to Lancaster, my parents and I had just stopped in to see Pop-Pop and Ma-Ma at their condo. We were leaving and they walked us out to our car. We hugged goodbye and said we loved each other.

Ma-Ma said, “You know, it’s important to find someone to spend your life with.” Ma-Ma and Pop-Pop were married their entire lives. I was single at the time, and recently moved to LA… I almost melted into tears. Impossible! I said to myself.

Pop-Pop patted me on the back and hugged me, “You’re a good kid.”

My long-distance family time revolves around my phone. I found myself clutching it in both hands, when I found out Pop-Pop was in a coma on Monday.

Before I left for Puerto Rico, my Mom texted me one nite:

MOM: “Saw a show with Pop-Pop and now having dinner with him at Press Room. He says to tell you he’s glad you’re going on the trip and he misses and loves you.”

ME: “This is making me cry. I miss him so much. Tell him I love him too!”

MOM: “OK, now we’re all crying.”

The last time I saw him was this past Christmas. With a hug and his smile that made us feel like he was so happy to see us…

That’s how I’ll remember you, Pop-Pop.



Puerto Rico: Day 2! (Eating is Believing)

13 Apr

We woke up to the rainy pitter-pat of… rain… on the leaves outside our window.  The streets were shiny black. Angry little rivers jammed themselves into leafy drainage grates that weren’t having it.

A beautiful day in paradise! Actually, it was. The mountains are soooo green. And the flowers vibrant. Nevermind the news story later about a man who emotionally recounted the tale of his horse washing away in the flash flood waters that day, only to find its way home again. Spinglish or Spanglish, that s*** makes your face cry.
What better way to kick off our jet-lag, than with some spankin’ fresh Pan Sobao. That’s me, some pan, and Ervin, driving back from the bakery. I sampled a few nibbles (read: entire loaves) on the way home.

Friends, if a Puerto Rican tells you “Puerto Rican bread is awesome”, believe them. With the fervor of a child on Festivus Eve, waiting for ChanuClaus. It. Is. Punch you in the face. Delicious.

With a schmear of Mezcla, a yummy don’t-look-at-it-too-long hammy spread, I could have died, my life complete. At least carbs-wise. Good thing I survived. I had like 700 more sandwiches to snarf.

I poured myself some black coffee and read my horoscope in Spanish. “The situation of to you warning! use Uranus friends now believe heart today.” I think I’m getting the hang of this.

It’s still raining. (And I notice Ervin’s wearing Crocs. Whaa–? Fancy LA boots don’t make no sense round here.)

What to dooooo….

Oh here! Some Puerto Rican hootch! We were watching a TV show about dudes who make illegal moonshine in Virginia, when I said to Ervin’s Dad “That looks pretty dangerous” and he nodded that it did.

Two seconds later, he hands Ervin a friggin bottle of Pitorro that was tucked beside the sofa. It’s a-million-proof liquor, knocked down to non-kill-y level with coconuts and raisins.

And ‘tis divine. Apparently there’s a guy who knows a guy…….. I dunno, it was a secret, in Spanish. I had nothing to go on. But ask for Tito.

Later we headed over to a longtime friend’s house to BBQ on the roof. They cooked up an amazing meal of Arroz con Gandules (rice with pigeon peas cooked under banana leaf) and 3-meat-meatballs. Paired with – what else – a fine Medalla Light, more stars in the sky than I can remember, and the warm hug of a sultry evening, we listened to one little girl play Shakira’s “Waka-Waka” on the sax.

It was pretty brilliant.

The party moved to another house where there was more Medalla Light, and a tiny child who threw a wicker ball into my face (by “accident” — but we had been eyeing each other for a while).

After everyone had gotten their drink on (Ervin and I made bloodshot eyes at each other and agreed we could not do this 10 nites in a row. I hi-fived my liver.), soup happened.

Like, from scratch and without much fuss. It’s really simple and everyone tells me that “Oh yeah, everyone just has this stuff in their cupboards”. The stuff to make this awesome soup. I wonder what I could make with the stuff in my cupboards: vinegar, almond butter, wilted lettuce, gum…

This was a lovely, soothing (supposedly it’s great for hangovers… as you’re still at the party), brothy chicken soup called Asopao de Pollo, with rice, and — *at this point, Ervin told me that if I write anything else, I’d have to kill all of you, so… (You are welcome!)

There were two Puerto Rican Boston Terriers at the BBQ. Somehow I even felt weird speaking simple Spanish to them. I found myself saying “Oye, oye, oye…” like I’m a Jewish Dog Whisperer.

People say the International Language is love. Or that laughing needs no translation. I tell you, there is a third element in the Blessed Trinity.

Butt scratching.

You can learn a lot from a bug-eyed terrier.



Puerto Rico! Day 1

11 Apr

I have sooooo many photos from this trip. And all these little detail-y adventures, so I decided to take you on a 10 day journey of my 10 day journey! Aye yie yie!

Puerto Rico is beautiful. Everyone who had ever been there told me that, prior to my going. And it wasn’t a bunch of hype. It’s green, blue, hot pink, yellow. It smells like fresh baked bread, the sea, rain, BBQ. It looks like…. well. Lemme show you what it looks like. Also, it feels like awesome.

Here Ervin and I are, trying to make a P and an R gang sign with our fingers, but it’s backwards, and I look like a douche. So. Moving on!

We landed at San Juan in the early afternoon. This is my first photo of PR, from the window of the plane:
I don’t know if it was the rum+cokes or the effects of a sleepless red-eye, but I was instantly enamored. With Pagan. He must have gotten hit previously. Like, more than once. He made a sign!

And this is my second picture of PR:
Again, I had no sleep prior to this.  I usually step on the handles of public toilets. But this is brills! An easily accessible, not-at-all-nasty flushhhhhh.

So, after being wowed by the airport, we drove to nearby Isla Verde. It was warm and a little stormy.
Oh, and then there was the —
Geesh! It’s been a while since I’ve felt the sticky glue of a humid place. Not since summers in PA, NYC and all of my college life in FL. But with a glimmer of “why did I even pack a curling iron”, I soon forgot my frizzy hair troubles. Thanks, first sip of Medalla Light!
You will see a Medalla Light in almost every single one of my pictures! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First, we found a little chinchorro on the beach. It’s almost like a shanty, with deep friers and large pans, and lots of seafood for grubbing. There was a pile of coconuts in the corner, and we pulled up a few plastic chairs and dug in.
It puts the hot sauce on its skin… (*Does anybody get that? I’m referencing a movie I’ve never seen in whole.)
Pionono is sweet plantain with meat filling. The empanadillas were full of lobster and octopus and all kinds of other creatures. The Medalla you recognize by now. This was the first of 10 days of me asking “Oh my God, what is THIS – it’s delicious!”

We stopped by Selectos, the neighborhood grocery store, to pick up a few things once we arrived in Peñuelas. I think I bought Gasolina and deodorant. Just the essentials.
 Here’s me sampling the Gasolina. Mmmmmmm…
Ervin is from a small town on the south side of PR. In a neighborhood where the neighbors are truly involved in every aspect of your life. You say hi every day, visit a few times in each others’ homes, stop and chat it up if you pass by a good friend. It’s such a change from all my hustled urban living. Where I have yet to even see the neighbor who lives directly across the hall. And when would we ever have time to talk?

I snooped around  a little bit in Ervin’s Dad’s house where we were staying.
 And I plopped down in a chair next to Ervin’s Dad (he uses crutches because he lost his leg in an accident) and watched some TV. In Spanish. I speak very little Spanish (and seem to fly in the face of grammar), so imagine seeing a show like this on the tube:
That’s a dude’s legs, sticking out of a dress with a female puppet head on top. Co-hosted by a cowboy. It’s Super Exclusivo and it’s the number one show on TV there. It’s a gossip show and it’s been around for 20 years. I’m a tiny bit jealous of her legs. And her chair.

It was raining by this point. In the midst of what should have been the dry season. Flooding even. So we hung around the house for the afternoon. And what to my wandering eyes did appear…
Ervin’s senior portrait! That’s his brother on the left.

And this one! Ervin’s on the right. He said he had just taken a shower.
We’ve been dating for a few months. It’s about time for the humiliation round. I say, as I have no available pictures of my youth.

I also found this little map on the fridge. It helped me sort a few things out.
Once the rain dried up a little, Ervin’s brother took us to a nearby chinchorro. A tiny structure along a windy street in the hills. We met up with some friends, and made a few new ones. We all came to this one place to have a few drinks and share some stories. We did a lot of both. I also ate my first breadfruit, which they served at the bar! It’s delicious. Buttery and sweet, with the consistency of boiled potatoes.

I was feeling frustrated with my Español skills, but I made up for it in smiling and drinking. Both of which faded away by the end of the night. I could have curled up in chair and just listened to people play pool and talk, as I fell asleep.We finally called it a night and headed back to the house for some rest.

I was out in the blink of an…




Uno Momento While I Collect Myself.

4 Apr

Hey guys! I’m writing to you from WORK! I don’t have any pics to share today and no stories (– yet. I’m saving all my Puerto Rico for an honest to goodness post).

I just wanted to tell you Ervin and I are back in LA! 500 lbs heavier, hair frizzier, a little less sober-ier, way happier.

Aaaaaand back to the grind. I’m working 2 jobs this week – freelance and the delivery job. So I barely have time to sleep. It’s been a bit of a culture shock coming home… I had no idea what level of stress I was used to. And the level of douchebaggery. (That goes out to the girl in the leggings-as-pants, parading around Oaks Gourmet last nite, doing and undoing her hair in a bun while relaying her latest shooting schedule to her sunglasses-at-night-and-inside friend, clear across the deli. That was after she nearly crushed a motorcycle, trying to park her giant SUV.) It’s all good. Pretty soon I’ll be used to it again and will hardly notice it.

No, no, no… I will always notice when people tuck shirts into leggings and act like it’s normal. It was normal when you were 3, and it was Smurf’s T-shirt jammed into your thick tights.

I keep scrolling through my iPhone pictures from my trip, devising ways to live in an adorable little hacienda in Old San Juan, PR. And spend every day floating in the warm sea.



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