Monday, June 27, 2011

To Puerto Rico and Back

I planned a vacation by myself because I got tired of waiting for people’s schedules to match up with mine. I am young and I only live once, and I can’t wait for others to be ready for the things that I want to do with my life. I take pride in the fact that I like to do things by myself, but going to Puerto Rico alone was scary.

The week before I left I got really worried and I didn’t discuss my trip with anyone because talking about it stressed me out. People knew I was going, they just didn’t remember when and I didn’t remind them. I asked myself why the hell I subject me to four days alone with me. When Sunday comes, I’m usually antsy to get back to work. So why was I sending myself to a place I had never been to, to sit there and do what, by myself? Why didn’t I schedule my return time for the morning instead of the evening? Why did I do this to myself?!

When the plane took off from JFK, I got really chocked up and tried my best to hide the fat tears that escaped me trying to emotionally pull myself together. 'I am a big girl! I am a big girl!', I told myself. As long as the plane got to where it was supposed to go safely, I would be fine.

When the plane landed and I walked into the airport, I felt the way I should have felt in the first place. Ecstatic, proud. I couldn’t believe I was actually in Puerto Rico by myself. I walked out of the airport to catch a taxi and the humid, Puerto Rican air enveloped me soaking into my clothes (I still had my hooded sweatshirt on). At that moment I knew I was going to love it there. Humid and beach are two of my favorite things on vacation.

My vacation started off RIGHT with a $12 cab ride to my hotel, the Courtyard by Marriot, Isla Verde Beach Resort. I arrived a few hours earlier than check-in time, but my room was ready. Nice! I dropped off my luggage, snapped a few photos of my room (because I’ve always loved home d├ęcor) and the view of the beach from my balcony and made my way to Denny’s to have breakfast. I understand that Denny’s is not Puerto Rican food, but it was cheap and I love breakfast, so there!

At Denny’s I experienced the first joy of traveling by myself. There was no one there to judge how I eat. I love food and I like to taste all the flavors of my food at once. Eggs and harsh browns on my fork in my right hand, and my bacon in my left hand. Both of my hands work together to make my taste buds happy.

There was no one there to judge how much black pepper I put on my eggs and I went crazy with the black pepper shaker in celebration of this. There was no one there to ask me with a look of disgust, how many sugars I put in my tea. There was no one there to tell me not to bother the waiter when I asked for my eggs to be cooked well-done and my bacon to be fried until crispy; I am paying for my food and I deserve to get what I ask for. There was no one there to judge how much butter I put on my toast. There was no one there to judge the fact that I was using both of my hands to eat. There was no one there…and it was fantastic!

When I went to pay for my food, one of four young guys, also waiting to pay, looked at me and asked, “You’re here by yourself?!”

My heart skipped a beat when I asked the waiter where the Walgreens I had Googled was and realized it was right next to Denny’s. I always scout out the pharmacies when I go on vacation. Things are just cheaper and more accessible at one of the chain pharmacies. I bought a gallon of water and a bag of Cheetos and figured out where to walk back to my hotel from Denny’s on the beach.

The rest of my vacation consisted of more Denny’s, lots of beach time either swinging in one of the hammocks that lined the beach outside of the hotel or sitting on the shore allowing the warm waves to roll over the lower half of my body (I can’t swim so sitting on the shore was as far as I was going into the ocean.)

The hotel won me over with the happy hour at the pool swim-up bar. I never understood why hotels keep their pool water so cold that you have to work your way in, but not this hotel. I didn’t think I was going to get into the pool at all, but after I dipped my foot into the water to test the temperature, I found myself seated on one of the inner-pool barstools swinging my legs in the comfortable water. The drinks were $3 from 3pm – 5pm at the poolside bar, Papayas, and then from 5pm – 7pm there was a $3 happy hour at Picante in the hotel lobby where you could get your drinks and sip them in the pool area. I only took advantage of one happy hour or the other, not both. I wasn’t trying to get sloppy out there by myself.

At the poolside bar is where I met and connected with some really great people. The first day I met a very glamorous woman who was on vacation from Dubai with her family. Her mom, her husband and her 18 month old little boy. She was originally a New Yorker and she was a Latina. I had a great conversation with her and I was fascinated that she was a Latina who lived in Dubai, but people do travel. She told me that traveling was the reason that she and her husband decided to only have one child. As I played with her baby, she gave me the low down about the hotel and what I should do while on vacation. She told me that she and her family always stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel because it felt like they are on a private island. I had to agree.

In the evening, rain came down heavily as the sun set, but it was still shining. And the sky blessed us with the arch of a rainbow.

That night, because I was scared to leave the hotel, I ate in the hotel lobby. I ordered a chicken quesadilla and it was not good. Not bad, but not good, so I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t eat at the hotel again.

That night and the next morning I experience the second joy of traveling by myself. There was no one’s deadline that I had to meet but my own. I went to sleep when I wanted and I didn’t feel pressured to stay awake past my bedtime due to someone who wanted to break night. And when I woke up, I was free to lay in the bed until I wanted to get up. I didn’t have to wake up and rush because I was on someone else’s schedule. It was relaxing to do things at my own pace.

On my second day, I met a girl from Brooklyn at the same place, the poolside bar. We clicked instantly and found out that we had a lot of things in common. It was as if we were meant to meet. Because of her, I was able to see more of the area because we ventured out beyond the hotel grounds together, which is something that neither of us would have done being that we were both on vacation by ourselves. Meeting her made my vacation perfect, because as she said, “We still have our alone time, but we see enough of each other to break up the monotony of the trip.” I am so glad that I met her.

I had booked an Old San Juan/ New San Juan tour for the third day of my trip, but the night before the tour, I was told that it would be cancelled and my money refunded, which was such a blessing in disguise because there was a friend of a friend who lived in Puerto Rico only 15 minutes from where I was staying, and she wanted to take me site seeing in Old San Juan.

So on my third day, I met up with the friend of a friend and she took me to Old San Juan. I tried to contain myself as I became possessed by the beauty and the architecture of the city and went crazy with my camera. The images I captured are breathtaking and I am so grateful to that poor woman who walked high and low throughout the city with me and then bought me a yummy lunch of chuletas, arroz con habichuelas, y maduros (Pork chops, rice and beans and sweet plantains). Damn that just made my stomach growl.

In Old San Juan, I experienced the third joy of traveling by myself, even though this time I wasn’t really alone, just with someone who was patient. I was free to capture as many photos as I wanted to take without someone complaining that I was wasting time taking too many pictures. One thing I realized while I was taking pictures, is to look behind you. Some of the best photographic opportunities are after you've walked away from an area. When you turn around, you can capture your memories at a different angle giving you a completely different photo.

I recognized the bus in Old San Juan that stops outside of my hotel and at the end of my pro bono site seeing tour, I hugged my tour guide and for $.75 cents, I blended in with the locals and found my way back to my hotel.

On my last day, after having breakfast at Denny’s, I checked out of my room and I sat on the beach from noon until 3pm when the poolside happy hour began. This time, I met a fun group of people from Queens and Newburgh, NY. Maybe my New York pheromones were polluting the air around me attracting only those who had lived in New York at one time or another. It made me feel at home. One gentleman of the group kept humorously telling me to call the airline and change my flight so that I could hang out with them. One of the women in the group became my time keeper so that I didn’t miss my flight. The other gentleman informed me that there was a festival taking place at midnight and that everyone would be on the beach at that time.

I couldn’t believe that I felt this way, but I didn’t want to leave. I wasn’t bored at all even though I thought I would be. I really wanted to stay and hang out with these people I’d just met or even by myself. I was sorry that I had only booked my vacation for four days instead of five, or seven or forever…

I remember an old coworker saying that he wished he could just quit his corporate job and open up a business selling drinks on the beach in Puerto Rico. I get it. Beach life is the only way life should be.

After my flight was delayed an hour (an hour of which I could have spent sitting in the pool instead of sitting in the airport) I made it back home safely and I feel silly for being worried that I wouldn’t have a good time in the first place. I met great people, I ate good food and I showed myself that I don’t need anyone else to live my life. To me, life is living and sharing it with other people, but sometimes that can’t happen, and you shouldn’t stop living, because other’s can’t ‘live’ with you.

Now, on to the next vacation….With or without you!

~ Louise C.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite

I’d heard of bedbugs growing up, but only in the phrase, ‘Don’t let the bedbugs bite.’ I thought they were just a part of the rhyme and didn’t know that they really existed.

I already suffer from mid-level obsessive compulsive disorder, but this bedbug outbreak has sent my OCD levels into overdrive. People laugh at me, but I would rather be a nut job and be free from infestation, than be laid back about the situation and end up sharing my bed with insects.

I know that I shouldn’t allow this…plague (for lack of a better word to describe how I feel about this outbreak) to stop me from living my life, but I honestly think about them everyday, everywhere I go. I don’t go to the movies anymore and when I did that one time, I undressed in my kitchen, threw all of the clothes I was wearing into a plastic bag and left them in the freezer overnight.

I contemplated not having my yearly Christmas party because I didn’t trust my guests to be honest about whether they had bedbugs or not, or if they even knew if they had bedbugs or not. I didn’t want to take the risk of having people bring bedbugs to my house.

I have stopped going to the library after a near death experience with a bedbug last New Year’s Eve. I was being cheap about my Netflix plan and was receiving two dvd’s a month for $4.99 and getting dvd’s from the library for free the rest of the month. On my last visit to the library, when I opened a dvd case to check for bedbugs, as I always did since the outbreak began, I found what I was looking for. I almost had a heart attack.

In that situation my OCD paid off because I had the dvd’s sealed in a zip lock bag and I only took them out over the bathroom sink (because I heard that bedbugs can’t climb on ceramic) to see if there were any creatures inside.

After killing the bedbug and flushing it down the toilet to be absolutely positive that it was not in my home at all, I IMMEDIATELY took the dvd’s back to the library and told them what happened. They didn’t even want the dvd’s back and threw them in the garbage without taking them out of the zip lock bag I’d sealed them in. They told me that I was the third person to come in saying that I’d found a bedbug in the dvd case.

When I told my friends the story, I don’t know why some of them scrutinized my sanity. At least five of them asked me if I was sure it was a bedbug that I saw. Obviously not many people are taking this situation as serious as I am, which is why I no longer want to invite people to my house.

Unless someone has gone through it, or has an OCD issue like me, they don’t take into account how much a bedbug infestation costs to correct and how much of your hard earned money goes into the garbage because of it. Bedbugs can ruin your quality of life and my cozy home is a huge part of my quality of life.

I was really messed up after that library experience and although I have loosened up a bit, I have altered my life since to try and keep my home bedbug free.

Any clothing I buy is frozen before it is allowed to enter my home. I spray my doorway and around my bed with 91% alcohol frequently, because I heard that it kills and repels them. I’ve decreased the number of visitors I have in my home and the number of visits I make to people’s homes. As I said before, I do not go to the movies. I eye everyone on the train suspiciously, looking for bites or their arms or legs, and I don’t sit unless I have to. My train ride is way too long not to sit, so in this case, I forfeit my chances of not going home bedbug free if the person sitting next to me has them and one crawls on me.

I wake up in the middle of the night smacking myself because the blanket touched my face and because I am drunk with sleep, I forget that if a bedbug was on me I wouldn’t even feel it. Small marks on my wall that have been there for years are now noticed with panic and I don’t know how much lint I’ve attempted to kill.

I once handed a tied up plastic bag containing my jacket and purse to a woman behind a coat check counter at a lounge. She looked at me like I had two heads and I felt embarrassed, but I would rather suffer momentary embarrassment than suffer the consequences of taking a bedbug home with me. I just want to go back to the days when I don’t have to think twice about checking my coat or bag when I go out.

Now, is America going to give me back my sanity? I always take comfort in the fact that in this country, there is a solution to almost every problem you might have. If you have stomach issues, a cold or allergies, there are shelves and shelves of medications that will remedy your issue. If you have roaches, there is combat. If you have a plumbing issue, you call your building super or a plumber. If you don’t like your breasts, you can make them bigger or make them smaller. If you don’t want to be a parent, there is contraception available. If you are already pregnant and you don’t want to push your baby out, there are some doctors who will take your baby out for you, by allowing you to have a c-section.

These are all very random problem-solution topics, but I just feel like with everything available to us in this country, bedbugs should be easier to get rid of.

People can climb into a rocket ship, be catapulted into outer space and land on the moon, but they can’t figure out a way to get rid of bedbugs so that people like me can live in peace instead of living in fear?!

On the news, I heard them say that with the summer heating up, we should expect bedbugs to make a come back because summer is prime time for them to multiply. Lord, help me.

It’s impossible for me to cover every preventative measure when I have to do things like, leave my house to go to work and have a normal social life. (I’m exaggerating… a little. I would never become a hermit because of this.) I’m actually proud of myself for going on vacation this year, because going to a hotel and sitting on a plane is just asking for it. You don’t know who brought what to those places, but I can't allow my fear or bedbugs to run my life. Even so, I am definitely packing my OCD and taking it on vacation with me. I will be vigilant in my efforts to stay bedbug free.

I hope they figure this out soon, but until then, goodnight, sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite.

~Louise C.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

When Silence is the Best Policy

A few years ago, a friend of mine was receiving emails from someone she was no longer on good terms with. She asked me what she should do. My advice was, if she no longer wanted to be in contact with this person, nothing good would come from her responding to the emails. The best thing was to just leave the emails alone or delete them so that they weren’t taunting her. The best thing to do was not to respond.

I hate when life tests you with your own advice, because not too long after I gave that advice, I was faced with my own set of emails from people I no longer cared to hear from.

I try to steer clear of drama, unless I’m watching it unfold via reality t.v., but last year, I had more than my share of unnecessary dramatic events in which it took every molecule in my body not to retaliate. Not because I couldn't. I had more than enough personal information to respond to the attack against me. I didn't retaliate because it wasn't worth the backstabbing or shedding the loyalty that I hold dear.

In the moment when someone is saying things about you that aren't true, but they sound true, because at one time, this person was your good friend; and if your good friend is saying these horrible, nasty things about you, then they must be true (insert sarcasm here)... In that moment it was extremely hard to stay true to myself and not stoop to that level.

In the end, it wasn't worth the energy it would have taken to try to put things right. From the emails that were written to others about me, I asked myself why this person was in my life to begin with. I didn’t know or surround myself with people who did things like this. When someone takes your friendship for granted and they see your niceness as weakness; when they cross the line of respect and abuse your friendship, were they really a friend to begin with?

And I wish I was only talking about one person that I had to let loose from my life. I’m a laid back person who allows a lot of people into my life who shouldn’t be there. I give people too much benefit of the doubt. When I notice that someone doesn’t treat the people around them with respect, I should follow my good instinct and keep my distance instead of cozying up to them. For this, I have no one but myself to blame when things go wrong and in my inbox, awaits a lovely little note from the people who have become my frienemies.

Some people get a rush from arguing period. They relive that moments when they uttered just the right phrase that delivered a jab to their opponent. Arguing via email brings on a higher level of satisfaction for people like this. The person can keep a record of the argument and they can pat themselves on the back as they re-read the things they said and for being so crafty with their snarkiness. And when they receive a response from the person they are arguing with, they feel excitement.

I just don’t have the time or the energy for that ish. I have one life and I refuse to spend it sending a blast of hurtful words over the internet (or via text), trying to win some sick game of one-upping each other.

Some may see my ‘no reply technique’ as a punk move. A person who can walk away from an instigated argument is no punk to me. Someone can’t argue if there is no one to argue with.

Facebook takes things to another level (or I should say, people take Facebook to another level) when they bring their words out for others to see. It’s no longer a private issue between two people. People use their Facebook pages as a battle ground by posting an indirect, passive aggressive dagger at someone they are having an issue with. Then that person responds by doing the same thing and on and on until one blocks the other.

Why are we even communicating in this way to begin with? Maybe I’m old fashioned in this age of technology, but actually talking things out in person might bring better results and reduce the drama that can develop from misreading / reading too much into something someone wrote.

It’s too much for me so I just don’t get involved at all.

Everyone handles certain situations differently, but for me, where drama ensues in the inbox, silence is the best policy.

~Louise C.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Spark

I'd like to say thank you again, to all who attended my book signing. The event would have been a flop without anyone there, so 'kiss-kiss' to all of you. Thank you also to those who could not make it, but still supported me.

Someone recently asked me "What is it that you are trying to accomplish by writing these books?"

My answer was that I'm not trying to accomplish anything. I'm writing simply because I love to write.

In life, it's easy to find things to be stressed about. Things happen that aren't enjoyable. Most of the time, you don't even have to go looking for them. I am a firm believer that life is to be enjoyed. So I try my best to take advantage of the things that make my life enjoyable. There are many things that make me feel a spark. Many of which I’ve mentioned in UNDIES IN A BUNCH; Love, friendship, cooking food, eating food, dancing salsa, buying clothes and shoes, wearing clothes and shoes, vacations, restaurants, New York City... Some of the things that make my life enjoyable are extremely superficial. I've been reading too many magazines, but I promise, I do have some substance to me. I guess that depends on your level of what substance is.

Anyway, writing is one of my more substantial sparking qualities. The things that ignite me, also unify me and give me a sense of solidarity.

As I re-read stories in UIAB, for the millionth time, I began to doubt myself. Reading a story once to hear and see how it flows is exciting, but going over the same stories repeatedly with a fine toothed comb can become mundane. No matter how mundane, though, my stories still managed to make me smile. And that within itself was a positive.

With art you do what you feel; some people will get your art and some won't. Every song, art piece, book or movie is not for everyone, and that is what I had to accept about my book.

In some stories, my writing style isn't straightforward or traditional so some will get the point and some won't. Some will like more stories than others and some won't like my book at all. I am okay with that.

"What is it that I am trying to accomplish...?"

The solidarity and accomplishment I feel from the positive feedback on UIAB, reminds me that I never, ever should have doubted myself for a moment. Touching someone through words, making them smile is an added bonus.

Thank you, thank you!

I've smelled summer in the air the past couple of weeks, but didn't commit to the season until this week. I've already taken to the streets of my lover, my city, New York; allowing my booty to jiggle free in the warm breeze...only those who read UIAB will know what I'm talking about. J

Take advantage of the fantastic, summer days ahead. They go so fast. Dine at an outdoor restaurant with some good company...


~Louise C.