An Instagram Story

This is Cailloux.

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She’s what we like to call a Puerto Rican terrier, or “sata”. It’s an original island breed. They are smart and gorgeous, and the sweetest you’ll ever meet! She’s a rescue, so she’s also fiercely loyal and trusting. Four years ago, we embarked on our first adventure… we moved to Chicago.

She agreed whole heartedly, and traded in the beach fur for a winter coat.

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She didn’t always like them. She didn’t really like the boots either, but she did see squirrels…

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The solitary squirrel, a rare opportunity for Cailloux, and she seized it!

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We fell in love with Chicago, but after 4 years the adventure had to come to an end. And again she was ready to help. (Without opposable thumbs she was more there to provide morale.)

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Trusting as she is, she jumped right in! We moved back to her home country of Puerto Rico for the summer.

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Boxes arrived.

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Long sunny walks started…

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And then, Cailloux’s favorite activity… beach!

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She’s finally back home, she has a big yard.

The point is I’m leaving soon, and this time Cailloux can’t come on the adventure. And I’m going to miss her because she’s a great furry companion. At least, when I was living on my own, I felt less crazy about talking out loud. I wasn’t talking to myself, I was talking to my silent partner. And I’m going to miss her goofy little fur ball.

So, here is a series of very self-indulgent Instagram pictures I took of Cailloux.

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“Can I Touch Your Hair?” Got Published!

She looked at me and said: “Can I touch your hair?”

In hindsight, I should have said no. We were sitting at a table in a bar, enjoying a lovely evening; everyone was having such a good time. I didn’t want to be a buzz-kill. So, I had become a party trick. For some reason, unknown to me, I don’t look Puerto Rican. So, my new Chicago friends thought it was funny to ask people sitting near us to guess my heritage.

I bent across the table, and let her squeeze my hair bun. She looked at me, and I could see the wheels in her head turning. It felt like forever, but then she said: “You’re Greek!” My friend laughed, he thought it was hilarious. I politely corrected her. She had a mix of disappointment and annoyance in her face; then she let me know I had Greek hair. I’m sure her disappointment stemmed from the failure of her fact-based theory.

TouchHair-mediumNo one at that table would consider themselves racist. They all liked me. Was I the one being weird, or is this just a fun game I’m not getting?

I grew up in Puerto Rico; shielded from minority status. I took my differences for granted, because I wasn’t. I thought racism was blatant, like on TV or movies, and I would know right away when I faced racism. I didn’t.

I learned what “micro-aggression” meant, and I realized that’s what I faced every time a friend paid me what I can only assume they thought was a compliment. Every time they smiled and said “Oh, you don’t sound Puerto Rican” or “you’re not that kind of Puerto Rican.” Apparently, a memo went out. I was not aware. We’re not post-racism; we’re in a brand new era of racism brought about by political correctness and extreme politeness.

This is who I am, it’s a fact. I didn’t choose it, I just happened upon it. I, however, am not solely defined by it. I am a fully formed human being with many defining factors that either differentiate me or make me a part of a group depending on where I am at any given time. I’m obsessed with Steve Martin, politics, Friends (the series, and my friends too), Frank Sinatra, Hector Lavoe, I danced salsa at every party; I’ve read Cien Años de Soledad every other year for the last 10 years, I also went through a phase where I read all the beatnik writers, and watched all the Audrey Hepburn movies. I am aware a lot of what I just stated makes me painfully uncool, which informed me more than just my nationality. I am not a two-dimensional character sidelined by one factor. Humans are more complex.

I am not embarrassed by my culture or my heritage. It’s unspoken, but I know what people mean, and I don’t find it flattering. No one but me gets to define who I am. I look in the mirror and I see “una mancha de plátano” staring back at me – proudly. I made my choices based on my interests, but they are informed greatly by my culture. Racism is alive; it’s now nuanced, morphed, shape-shifted. People won’t yell racial epithets, but they let you know subtly (often unwittingly) that you are different. Because racism is not just about the differentiation of a race, it’s in the idea that one race is entitled to decide and define another race.

This offended me. Offended by the inability to have an honest cultural and race conversation because no one wants to insult anyone. What it leads to is even more insulting. It assumes that we cannot carry an objective conversation on race and race relations. Or worse, not worth the discussion. We are.

Racism finds the lowest common denominator, it finds the stereotype and does not allow for deviations from it. We are all a giant bell-curve. This is where micro-aggressions hurt the most. They paint with the broadest strokes. It concludes that each minority, be it based on culture, race, gender, or any other differentiating factor, falls under a category with pre-set parameters without accepting any changes. It is comforting to have a definition, but it is not right.

Now, when faced with these assumptions of my Puerto Rican-ness, I try not to get insulted. I take it as an opportunity to start a new conversation. Sometimes with a disarming joke – just to let them know gently that we are not a supporting character in the life movie that says something sassy in Spanish and walks out.

Granted, I will say something sassy, but I can say much more than that.

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via La Respuesta Media

Can I Touch Your Hair?

“Can I touch your hair?”

“No”, is what I should have said. Or “that’s weird.” Instead I stared blankly at her and said “sure!”

Maybe I should provide some context. I get this all the time, sometimes in different variations like “Funny, you don’t have an accent” or “both of your parents are Puerto Rican,” but they’re different questions asking the same thing.

This time it was asked by girl who walked into the bar where my friends and I were celebrating a successful Writing 6 show. She apparently knew someone at our table and joined us.

I don’t know how we got to this, but it’s one of my friend’s favorite party tricks, so I’m not surprised. He asked this girl to guess where I was from. Oh goodie, let’s pretend this will have a different outcome.

She stared at me, quite intently. I’m not sure what my face was saying, or if it was giving off any nationality vibes. And that’s when she squinted a little and said “Can I touch your hair?” What followed was probably the most awkward interaction I can imagine. I would have paid some serious money to see what my face looked like as I stretched over the long bar table over to her.

She squeezed the hair bun, and after what seemed like hours of her wheels turning as an exercise in futility, she shifted back in her bench and triumphantly announced:

“You’re Greek!”

My so-called friend smirked in delight. As if saying “HA! Once again you have been deceived!”

I politely corrected her, no – that would be Puerto Rican. I felt bad. She was so sure after her fact-based assumption. I can only imagine that comes from years of hair-texture research, it’s understandable that she was disappointed in my non-Greekness.

“Hmmm, interesting, you have Greek hair!”

Again, I should have said something, but I was stunned by the series of events. To be honest, I never really have a response for these things. I mean, what does it mean to look Puerto Rican? Or Greek for that matter? I forgot to wear my Puerto Rican flag.

I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that you couldn’t peg where I was from, or are somehow concerned that I don’t look like J.Lo, am not obsessed with spandex and lip liners.

Should I take off my nails, and my hair extensions? Should I wave my finger? Say something like “Ay esto se va a poner bien feo!” Does that make my Puerto Rican-ness more palatable and relatable? Should I be darker? Or lighter? Or have more product in my hair?

I’m being unfair. I can see your confusion. Your perception of me is not in my hair, but in how you perceive my hair should be. My perception of me is not so simple. I was raised in the island, but I am not the island. It is a part of who I am, but it is not the only defining factor of who I am.

But who knows… maybe I have it all wrong.

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This was a story written for my “Tell Your Story” class. It’s all true – along with my deep thoughts on it.

Rincón and Beautiful Sunsets

Wedding #3… an unforgettable weekend!

Well, this one is loooong overdue, but I didn’t know where to start! How to start and explain how much these people mean to me, how cool they are, and how lucky I am to have them in my life?

Well, aside from a wonderful mini-reunion that we had, we were there for the union of Veli and Jared – be.here.now. And that we did. The atmosphere was so full of love and gorgeousness, it could be overwhelming for a cynical person like your truly. However, it was such a genuine and accepting environment that even this jaded heart had to succumb and accept the happy, heart-string pulling event. Yes, tears may have rolled down some cheeks.

For a brief story on the couple we are toasting here: A Puerto Rican girl, a New Jersey Jewish boy meet at a friend’s party and kiss, they date, they grow closer, they fall madly in love, they start sharing their dreams and their ideas for the future, the downturn in the economy proves to them the ephemeral nature of humanity and life, they pick up and move to the south, he learns how to farm, she teaches yoga, they find a calling, they begin a new life together… it’s like a Nicholas Sparks novel with no sad twists.

You should be so lucky… so, for lack of words (though it hardly happens!) here is a selection of pictures that I think piece together the mystical weekend in Rincón, PR. They are somewhat out of order, but you can see the joy oozing out of all of them. So sweet we’ll give you a toothache.

This is the entire group. Look at how pretty we look! BU class of ’05 doing it right!

Part of the girls with the bride, Velisa (in the shiny maroon dress.)

We’ve grown older, but not necessarily matured. This is one of our oldies but goodies… hair under our armpits and creepy faces. Yeah, we’re high brow.

And this is the reason everyone should have a beach side wedding…

This is the best part of friends… don’t see them for a year, still willing to be crazy with you.

Make up was still intact… this is the beginning of the evening. They had “Rum Punch,” which is code for “death to Lali.”

Yeah, not even London can stop us!

Oh, and each villa at the Horned Dorset had a private pool? They did.

The bridal party in lovely shades of blue.

The groom, Jared. (I’m High on Cooking)

And the beautiful bride, Velisa.

Mazel Tov!

Aw yeah, it just got real!

Gratuitous beach bunny shots!

Best photo bomb ever! (Courtesy of Stef.)

And we partied like rock stars…

I absolutely adore this shot!

The Breakfast Club

Can music save your mortal soul?

And now that we know, the world will never be the same with “Chester the Molester”

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Easter Sunday, Brunch, and Other Uncharted Waters

EASTER!

Well, growing up Catholic meant that after a couple of days of no T.V., no fun music, no candies,  no snacks, no nothing that ever made you happy, you overdosed on a single day… and then proceed to live life as you did before Lent. Oh, and you’re doing this in the name of Jesus Christ, so guilt trips in full swing. This is only a preamble so that you may understand the grave importance that this day has in my life no matter how much I rationalize its insignificance in the grand-scheme of life. (Also note, I gave up cheese and beer for Lent… I ate a lot of cheese on Sunday.)

Yeah, I make a big deal out of Easter. Although, I must admit it’s mostly for the fashion. It’s a huge hoopla, with the hats, the dresses, the men wearing their pastel-bests, and the subdued hues… they tug at my heartstrings. I just can’t help myself! American Easters are also quite a novelty for me. We go all out in PR too, but as long as I can remember this is what my Easters looked like:

Back in the day, my mom would always take us to the beach house at Palmas del Mar in Humacao, PR. It made the bunny and his candy quite superfluous at a certain point in my childhood. It also made religion fun… I mean, it allowed me a week of sitting and watching this.

My lovely mother sent me this picture on Easter afternoon so that I may never forget what I was missing out on, and how much she misses me. I miss you too… and the sunsets.

But I digress (this happens often)… back to the story at hand. Traditions change, and making new ones is just as exciting as following the old ones. So, brunch among friends and expanding horizons is thrilling and uncharted waters. I also went to my first non-Catholic service. I know, tons of first. Not as big of a deal as I’m making it sound, but it’s fun to muse the historical consequences of a Catholic in a Protestant setting. Yes, I nerded out to religious history on Easter. I’ve been to synagogues, and Jewish weddings, but I expected the difference, I knew that I would sit, listen, and learn. This was slightly different. These are the kinds of thoughts that keep me entertained during long hours of services, this wouldn’t have happened in previous centuries, Martin Luther and his thesis, the printing press, the proliferation of the written word, the English crown, France, Spain, Europe’s turmoil in general, and all the crowned kings and queens that made decisions that would shape generations to come… the very foundation of this hemisphere.

OK, back to planet Earth… as I sat through the service I saw how little there really was of a difference. Well, except that they allow women to be preachers. Go figure! In this century? Sooo off-putting. (*Please note sarcasm!*)

Well, as always, my thoughts get the better of me, and I tend to get long winded (it’s exhausting to be in my brain.) So, lets dull it down a bit and look at pretty pics!

*CHICAGO*



The roommies get decked out. My dress was an absolute find at Lu Lu’s Vintage Jewelry & Clothing in Chicago. I love this boutique, makes me feel like I’m in a French boudoir, complete with dog.

I must point out Alyson’s adorable outfit, paired with a Polish designer’s fascinator, nude patent leather pumps, and insane calf muscle definition. You can follow her blog here: Eat Little Sleep Well and cheer her on!

This was the line (one of the sides) around Fourth Presbyterian Church on Delaware and Michigan (Water Tower.) They were handing out hot cider to keep everyone warm and cozy during the chilly windy wait.

Funny story at our expense: While Micki (Alyson’s mom), Alyson and I waiting we kept looking at this man across the street in front of the Four Seasons. We kept talking about how amazingly still the mime-man stayed. Oh, he would put Marcel Marceau to shame. Well, joke was definitely on us… it’s a statue. Very realistic, and I wondered if any cabs ever stopped to pick him up confusing him the same way we did it. Look, it was 8:30AM on a Sunday morning… ungodly early, and we were barely awake.

Brunch begins at Bistro Margot in Old Town.

First Course: Brie Puff with a Balsamic Reduction and Candied Walnuts.

Second Course: Veggie and Cheese Quiche with Mixed Greens.

Here I am with Alyson’s mom, Micki. We both made the excellent decision of ordering the bread pudding.


MMMmmmmmmmmm.

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After eating our weight in cheese and bread, we thought it would be most wise to go for an afternoon stroll. Well, it was either that or enter a food coma. We chose the walk. It was also too beautiful outside to

Cailloux was very excited about the walk. Just before I snapped this picture she was nose-deep in the tulips – she stopped to smell the flowers.

There was absolutely no cloud in the sky on Easter Sunday. It was such a pleasant walk, but it tired us out. I think I need another vacation to rest from all the eating and excitement.

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*All puns are intended.

I Can’t Quit You

This was wedding #2, for those of us keeping count, in 2012.

The wedding was absolutely gorgeous. Dylcia and Matt looked so happy, and after a few years (shall not name the actual amount) they had the timing right.

The wedding day was St. Patrick’s day, which I must say is quite genius. I mean, Matt should never forget their anniversary ever! The ceremony itself was in both English and Spanish, and while it may sound long, it was actually quite nice and the priest was quick, lighthearted, and endearing.

Here are some of my particularly favorite photos from the wedding:

Capilla Mayor – Universidad de Sagrado Corazón


Reception Entrance – Club Náutico

Continue reading I Can’t Quit You