Road Trip


Driving along I-45. I leave Houston for Fort Worth. In the car, talking. The phone connects us. No phone cord. This is no car phone from the 80s. We talk. I get upset. Why are you hanging out with these people? We have an argument, and I’m driving. I hang up because Lord knows I shouldn’t drive while I’m upset. So I hang up. And go back to listening to my audiobook.

The book is good. Not great, but I just started it. I listen. The voice keeps speaking. The lines keep moving. I’m driving along a busy highway. So many cars. Go away, cars. I’m listening to my book. The words soothe. The traffic seems less scary. The words float in the car, a calm sea of sound. The cars go away. I think I’m ready to talk now. 

Life snippets

Another installment of “False Starts,” this time the “Spring Training” Edition:

1) This morning I was driving back to our Kissimmee hotel after dropping my husband off at work (“work” being the Astros’ Spring Training complex) when R.E.M. came on the radio. Satellite radio allows for long-forgotten hits and random b-sides to find airplay again. “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” played on the 90s alternative station, and it took me back to my pre-teen years. The pop culture references, foreign to my Puerto Rican life in the countryside, motivated me to find out who the heck Kenneth was and why R.E.M. were making a reference to Dan Rather. This was a little harder than it would be today, since it required me looking at issue after issue of music magazines bought at the only popular bookstore close to Sabana Grande. Pre-teen me would have loved the Internet. I’m almost certain that listening to R.E.M. increased my vocabulary by at least a grade level.

2) When my husband and I got married, we had no wedding rings. The officiant asked us during a pre-wedding meeting whether we would exchange rings. We said no. We didn’t tell him we couldn’t afford the rings. We just left it at “no rings.” After the wedding, with some wedding gift cash, we went to the KAY Jewelers at the mall in Overland Park, Kansas, and looked at rings. I hate those “every kiss begins with Kay” commercials, but we bought our rings there. They’re not a wedding band pair; we picked two rings from the “Wedding” case, two that matched and that we could afford. My wedding ring is a simple silver band with a small diamond. When I first got my ring, I couldn’t wait to wear it everywhere. Yesterday my husband remarked that I take my ring off all the time. I felt sad admitting to him that my ring fits too snug because of the weight I’ve gained, and so I take it off when it’s too tight.

A year and a half apart. Also, my lovely nail polish

3) The art in our hotel room makes me feel out of place. I’m sure it’s supposed to evoke warmth, sun, relaxation. In short, it’s supposed to evoke Florida. It has the opposite effect on me: it evokes Puerto Rico. I’m half expecting to step out of our hotel room and find myself on the streets of Isla Verde, or smell la AMA pulling up to the bus stop. But every time I step outside, it’s a hotel hallway. Every hallway on every floor looks the same. No San Juan. Nostalgia comes back in mysterious ways.

Hotel selfie 1

Hotel selfie 1

Hotel selfie 2

Hotel selfie 2

Hotel selfie 3 (also, possibly my new Twitter avatar pic?)

Hotel selfie 3 (also, possibly my new Twitter avatar pic?)





Well, *that* was awkward.

After last night’s wonky rose ceremony and painful After The Final Rose show (and after some time at the beach because, come on now, I’m hanging out in Florida and I have priorities), I checked to see what the Internet had going regarding The Bachelor finale.

In a nutshell: Juan Pablo Galavís showed his true colors, broke Clare’s heart, and had the most awkward declaration of like in the history of the show. Not declaration of love, although Clare and Nikki’s declaration of love was pretty awkward too. Declaration of like because when Juan Pablo told Nikki she was The Chosen One, he did not propose but instead told her he wanted to keep going on with her because “he really REALLY likes [her].”

Here’s the thing: The Bachelor/Bachelorette series has gotten a lot of flack about how the show isn’t real. Meanwhile, this season is arguably the realest season ever. Yes, Juan Pablo is almost certainly the most despised male contestant in the history of the show. However, I think some of the interactions on the show seemed very much like real life. Girls declaring, yeah, that guy isn’t for me so I’m gonna leave, or “I can’t believe how shallow he is” or “He just wants to have sex with me” or “I’d never want to have kids with you.” These things happen in real life. That doesn’t mean they’re okay—no one wants anything to do with a person who’s an asshole—but this reality show finally seemed to focus on the reality.

However, the show is not supposed to be real. It’s supposed to be a fairy tale. This tension is what causes me to continue watching the show. In fact, I’ve been thinking for the past few weeks (although I still have to flesh this out some more) that the reason the show continues to be popular is because it reflects the cultural values of mainstream America when it comes to relationships. In a time where we see more and more diverse representations of what it means to love someone and be in a relationship with someone, this series’ golden token is that it reifies that idea of what it means to fall in love and get married.

That brings me back to last night’s finale. Nikki reiterated during After the Final Rose that she loved Juan Pablo, albeit without the same excitement and enthusiasm that she did during the finale. When host Chris Harrison asked Juan Pablo if he loved Nikki, he insisted that he did not have to say anything to anyone (followed by the audience’s boos—nice touch, Live Audience!) In short, Juan Pablo never said he loved Nikki on the show, even though Nikki felt comfortable reiterating her feelings for him.

I had half a mind last night to talk about how forced the whole interaction seemed between them, but then I read Reality Steve’s entry about the Finale: ”he was not invested into this process at all, is glad it’s over, and will probably never have anything to do with this franchise ever again.” Reading about how much Juan Pablo had manipulated the show to his benefit left me feeling a little empty inside. it also explains how tense and staged everything felt between him and Nikki.

Some light reading about last night’s episode:

‘The Bachelor’ implodes in real time during most awkward finale ever, thanks to Juan Pablo

In Defense Of THE BACHELOR’s Juan Pablo

Juan Pablo Galavis is the ‘worst Bachelor ever’: Show insiders say producers are ‘over him’

In The Dark

2014-03-01 19.27.55As I turned onto the dark road that would take us to George Observatory, I remembered my grandma saying I was not afraid of anything, that when I want to do something or go somewhere I would just jump in and get it done. Then I saw a sign emerge from the darkness into the line of vision of the car’s headlights. “Venomous snakes in the park.” That scared me. I uttered to myself, what the heck is that about?!

It took some time for my eyes to adjust to the dark park. Once I closed the rear passenger door, the car’s inside light went off, and we were surrounded by darkness. There a was a faint yellow glow from faraway street lamps, but other than that we had to keep a close eye out for the path from the parking lot across the road to the observatory.

I should have known that the darkness meant we wouldn’t see the stars. I spent many a dark evening sitting on my parents’ front porch in the dark. E and I walked along the trail and spoke in hushed tones, as if our voices would disturb the darkness. That happens in the dark sometimes.

2014-03-01 19.31.07The path was illuminated by low-set white bulbs and then red bulbs. My daughter and I followed the path, and as we got closer to the observatory we heard the commotion of antsy teenagers milling about. We later found out that the cloudy sky meant that the telescopes had been put away.

2014-03-01 19.26.48On our way back to the trail, my daughter found a bench and requested we sit down. In the red haze of the lightbulbs, we looked up into the sky and saw stars, branches, fireflies. Staring up at the sky, together with the warm air, reminded me of home. As we walked and searched for the stars in the sky, I remembered many an evening back in Sabana Grande. The country side. The darkness. The sounds.

Suddenly it all felt very familiar. The voices were not familiar, but the darkness, the sounds of night creatures, the smell of the warm evening air, the trail, it all felt real. For a moment I was back home, in a blackout, trying to make sense of figures in the dark.

Sometimes I forget how those dark country nights are as much a part of me as the bright city lights.

I remember grandparents

My husband’s grandpa passed away this weekend. I barely knew him, compared to how my mother in law knew him, having growing up around him; compared to how my husband knew him, having learned to love baseball with him. He was a presence during their whole lifetimes, and they now must learn what it is like to live and not have him there, physically present. I barely knew him. I grieve that I won’t have the chance to get to know him better. I was hopeful for the day he would buy my daughter her first bicycle because he believed every child should have their own bicycle—having grown up sharing one bicycle among many siblings in North Carolina.

I remember grandparents today because I too have grandparents. Two have passed away; one of them I never knew, and I’ve only met in my dreams. Of the two I still have, one has Alzheimer’s. He’s there, but he’s hiding. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he’s back in his hometown, courting my grandmother, or back in Brooklyn when he first moved to the city and had to commute to the watch factory, or back on 96th street at the shop where he would drink with his buddies. I remember walking into the shop, the radio playing, the laughter from his buddies, me a little girl going over to see Abuelo. He’s there, but we can’t see him anymore.

I remember grandparents today because my parents are grandparents. Until four years ago they were only parents. And they are children, like I am. Every grandparent has/had a child. And when someone loses a grandparent someone else loses a parent. And I can’t stand the thought of my daughter losing her grandparents because that means we’ll be losing parents.

I remember grandparents today because my family is not just the one I was born into but the one that I have embraced as my own.

I remember grandparents.