Friday, July 29, 2005

Mama Luz

I told Husband this morning that a small percentage of my Health Transformation 2005 has to do with his mother. My mother-in-law, Luz, is as spunky and raucous a woman I've ever met. She's the loudest person on the face of the planet, and at 5'0" she's been known to kick a grown man's ass. The family loves to talk about the night Luz tackled her 6'0" brother during a fight and they toppled down the stairs because of it. And despite the fact that her living room is only 500sq feet, she throws tremendous house parties; all-night bashers. My husband said during his growing up and even after he was grown he spent every New Years Eve at home because she threw the best parties. I love me some Mama Luz.

Luz is also a salsera. She used to promote salsa nights in Manhattan and she can cut a rug down to shredded threads. She'd wear mini skirts and sky-high heels and she'd sport her short sexy hair and stare partners down with her huge beautiful eyes with a glare that meant nothing but trouble. To our wedding, Mama Luz rocked a caramel-colored mini skirt and matching blazer with a fantastic earth-toned scarf tied around her neck. In the family pictures as we all stand under the threshold of where Husband and I declared our wedding vows, Mama Luz is popping out her hip and looking superfly. It captures exactly who she is and what I really love about her.

Over the years that I've known Luz, we gone dancing together a few times. And because she's from New York and I'm from Cali, I could never keep up with her party stamina. I want to go to a club at 9:30pm and leave by 12:30. When we're in NY, we get to the spot at midnight and leave at 4am. I'm not built for that. It's exhilarating in the moment, to be out until dawn, but I get preoccupied thinking about the consequences of the next day. The idea of children waking me at seven when I've closed my eyes at five makes me want to cry. For Mama Luz on the other hand, this is no problem. Husband tells of stories when he was in his early 20's of getting home from the clubs at the same time as Mama Luz, just before day break, and then hearing her loud ass a couple hours later arguing or laughing with her sisters in the kitchen, wide awake and ready to tackle another day.

This last Christmas, while we were in NY, some family members planned a girls night out. We went to a hot salsa spot in the city that was packed by the time we arrived at fucking midnight. I was already tired. Once I heard the music though, I couldn't wait to get in and get my groove on. But Luz sat immediately in a booth and nursed a drink. During the course of the night, I saw her dance once (twice, but the second time was with me). She was winded and her knee hurt. She was sluggish and severely out of shape. I was humbled by this and I couldn't help but look over at her throughout the night even while I was dancing. Her health seemed to deteriorate all of the sudden. One minute she's throwing haymakers on a dude, the next she aches too much to care. One minute she's wearing every dancer out until the clock ticks 4am, the next she's a tired wallflower. It pained me to see this.

To be clear, Mama Luz has never lived a healthy lifestyle. She smokes. She eats fried shit daily. She does not eat vegetables nor fruit. She only eats white bread, white everything. She does not drink water. She sleeps four hours a night. She is easily stressed and heated. She does no exercise. I am not exaggerating any of this. And though you would think logically that lifestyle would break anyone down, I was still surprised to see Luz so affected. I just thought she was made of unbreakable steel.

She buried her mother from a stroke a few years ago. Her mother, a family matriarch in every sense of the word, had such failing health in the last six years of her life, it was mortifying to her children, adopted and blood, and everyone else that clung to her for emotional strength. But with the exception of one daughter, Luz's sister Alma, none have taken an initiative to change health habits. In fact, I don't believe any of them have made the connection between Mami's health and her lifestyle.

Husband and I have dropped many hints to Mama Luz. Even straight out suggestions. She don't want to hear shit. "I don't like water." "I don't need vitamins." We say, "But you don't eat vegetables." "I'm as healthy as anyone." We don't know how to spin this for her to want to be more healthy. It's frustrating.

But if anything it has helped me with my Health Transformation 2005. I don't want to just live to a good ol' age, I want a quality of life where when it comes time for me to hit the salsa floor with my grown daughters, I'll still be able to shimmy circles around them. I plan to say things like, "What do you girls know about this," as I double turn and strike a pose.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Beauty, Mad Natural

At the beginning of the year it became furiously important to me to buy food as organically as possible. The more I read about what The Man is lacing food with -- chemicals and pesticides -- the more it made my skin crawl, and in turn transformed me into some kind of paranoid conspiracy theorist about how they are trying to kill us off via "unexplainable" cancers (caused my The Man's chemicals and pesticides).

The more I scrutinized my food, the more I realized I couldn't deny what everything else is made with too. More specifically, my beauty products. I am a wannabe Earth Mother even if I cage her inside a vain casing. The casing is fun and decorative to me and as far as I'm concerned, cultures from the beginning of time have made efforts to make themselves pretty. I don't feel bad about that in the least. But the chemically, environmentally unsound products to support this quest began plucking at my Earth Mother guilt and paranoia. Does it have to be Glamour vs. Earth?

Last year, I started experimenting with different, natural beauty lines because I was determined to switch everything over 100% to natural, chemical-free products. As my experiment still continues, I have found many natural products that have worked and many, many that have not.

Nails: When you smell nail polish remover and it singes the nostril hairs, I think that's a good indication that many chemicals are used. Formaldehyde is one of them. Wha--? I found a nail-care line called Firoze that is formaldehyde-free and made with natural products and extracts. I ordered the starter kit which included polish, polish remover and cuticle cream. The polish is actually fantastic and the bottle comes with this ornament; I'm still not sure if it's only a bottle accessory or an elastic toe ring. Either way, I love a good accessory. The cuticle cream is cool; soothing my errant cuticles with horsetail and sandalwood extract. And it doesn't smell like poison. But the nail polish remover who's first ingredient is cornflower oil . . . let's just say that I am realizing with horror that there's a reason strong chemicals are needed to remove pigment. You figure painters get paint off their brushes with turpentine which is pretty much gasoline. So, I rubbed the corn oil on my painted nails and the only reason any polish came off at all is because I physically rubbed it off. Lately, I haven't been painting my fingernails at all; just keeping them vogue-y short and au natural. My toe nails I paint Firoze red and use nature's best polish remover, time. I let them chip and then I just apply another coat of red.

Hair: Health stores carry a few brands of hair color beyond henna that are Chemical Light, but not necessarily Chemical Free. More herbal extracts are used, but the developer, the stuff that allows the color to actually stay on the hair seems to need a chemical bondant. I decided to go beyond the Chemical Light and I found a "permanent" hair color manufacturer in Sweden that is completely chemical free. I ordered dark brown, and I received a box with a big bag of brown powder packaged like I had just bought bulk flour. The instructions were in Swedish though there was a small column of roughly translated English. What I understood was that I was to boil water, add black tea (huh?), add the pound of brown flour, slather it all on my hair like I'm building an adobe hut on my head and leave it on for . . . 2 hours. Did I really need to buy this product because I could've boiled used coffee grounds, black tea with cranberry juice and left that on my head for 2 hours and got SOME color out of it too. (Btw, used coffee grounds works as a great temporary "lift" to the skin. Maybe it's a good self tanner too; gotta experiment there.) I was overwhelmed by the Swedish instructions and the brown powder still sits under my sink. I am not interested in NOT coloring my hair considering I haven't seen my real color since I was 19. My first color was Flame Red . The real color is light brown now highlighted with gray and it's difficult to choose that over lustrous Espresso Brown #89A. Natural hair is a work in progress.

Body: I use Jason products now for my body: Tea Tree Body Wash and Vanilla Body Moisturizer. I love these better than any product I've used before and it is 70% organic, no animal testing, recycled and recyclable, no mineral oil or waxes and nothing synthetic. Finding a natural deodorant on the other hand was a tough, near painful experiment. I am convinced the crystal rock is a hocus pocus placebo and since I love Jason I decided to get their Tea Tree deodorant. My inner hippie was soon trying to escape through my armpits. Terrible. I thought buying a natural deodorant, even though I hate the metallic-y smell of regular deodorannt, was a lost cause and considering I sweat like a pig, I knew I couldn't subject others to that.

Then I was told about Alvera's Aloe and Almonds Roll On. It's the greatest ever and it's 85% aloe with no alcohol or chemicals. It doesn't stop me from sweating -- but neither could metal armpit plates -- but I smell great all day!

Face: Anyone that knows me well knows that I love me some magic eye creams. Anything for lifting, erasing, depuffing, smoothing, refining, I am all over it. If it burns to give me better texture, then that's the way it has to be. I'm also all about some anti-blemish product. And though I have not given up my salicylic acid soap to burn off impurities nor my Serum C by DDF, or Perricone eyes creams, I'd say the majority of my stuff is by Zia Natural Skincare. I use their daily moisturizer and sea weed eye lift and clay & enzyme masks and spray toner. Awesome line. Now, I also love make up and this had been a natural challenge too. I still use Vincent Longo foundation and MAC stuff, but what I have converted to is Dr. Hauschka's line of organic mascara and eye liner, Jason lip gloss (sometimes)and I experiment with natural shadows that I find at the health food store. I used to use Burt Bee's stuff -- until I became a vegan. I find a lot of their stuff greasy anyway. A lot of natural make up seems to slide off my face or simply evaporate only seconds after application.

This Natural Product experiment does continue because I love believing that I can have it all. That I can be a Fabulous Earth Mother that struts in organic make up while throwing over my shoulder a boa - that is if the feathers are fake and it doesn't shed these feathers to eventually choke and kill wildlife.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Basquiat Vs. My Thighs

I spend a lot of time thinking about my health. This time includes how food and how moving my culo affects every single aspect of my life; most importantly my mental well being. This year especially it all became so monumental – so important – to become the healthiest version of myself because I’m afraid of how loss of health will affect me as I age. I’m not quite ready to blame things on me getting older. “Can’t move around like I used to.” “Can’t touch my toes anymore.” “Can’t run without peeing my pants a little.” The slow deterioration scares the living shit out of me so I’ve decided to fight it.

So, yes, I think about this shit a lot and the only time I don’t is when I’m enveloped by art. When I read great writing, not once do I think about whether I’ve met my workout quota for the week. When I dance or see meaningful films, I’m not worried about the part of my outer thigh that curves out more than the rest of my leg; kinda like a “C”. And when I’m transfixed by paintings, I’m not counting one calorie. I am engrossed only by beauty.

I went to the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit at the MOCA Sunday. For a good 10 years, Basquiat has been one of my favorite, if not favorite, painters of all time. In my corporate cubicle I have kept a post-card size version of Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump (first painting shown) thumb-tacked to my wall for years. But to see that painting live -- to see it tower over my head and stretch wider than I had imagined; to see the texture of paint rise off the canvas in tiny waves, to see it so 3-D and so rich took my breath away. My favorite pieces of the exhibit were the huge paintings and these were really well displayed. The most congested room was that of his framed drawings where Basquiat scribbles his trade-mark written madness, and at the exhibit it was impossible to cram in with everyone and read every manic word. My personal theory on Basquiat is that a lot of the “poetic” pieces were farcical bullshit. That he purposefully wrote nonsensical crap to see how many he could sucker into thinking it was deep. I’m not saying everything he wrote is that. I think he rode a very fine line between irreverently sticking it to artistic snobs and plunging into the madness of his never-ending churning thought. With the help of some heavy drug use, this line probably became very hazy and wavy.

Basquiat, a half Haitian, half Puerto Rican Brooklynite, seemed drawn to being weird whether genuine or not. As a teen he lived a (rumored, self-induced) life of homelessness and fought off genetic tendencies of mental illness. He was a musician and graffiti poet but when he painted, his work catapulted him directly into the middle of 80’s pop culture. He was a near-instant painting superstar by his early 20’s. And though he seemed to desperately cling to the realness of his work – the work he HAD to paint -- I believe the only way he could not feel completely conquered by the intellectual elitism and underlying patronizing racism of the Art World was to give them the middle finger with some spoon-fed bullshit that was his “genius” scribble scrabble. I love him for that. But I love him most for the genuine madness that comes out in globs of fantastically-colored paint and creates primal and sophisticated and unique, often head-scratching, depictions of himself and other images that swirled around in his head. I looked at his huge work on Sunday, and I cocked my head and I was touched by the crazy beauty he couldn’t help but create. I haven’t thought of much else since. (Curved thigh “C”s and controlled portions can go fuck themselves right now.)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

To Binge, Or Not To Binge

When a fitness magazine survey asks: "Are you an emotional eater?" I have always marked no. And I really believed marking the "No" next to Emotional Eater box was true because recently I have not run to 7-11 at midnight for a couple pints of Hagen Daas or snuck Doritos in my desk drawer or driven through MDonalds for chocolate shakes and french fries. I don't do those things anymore is more accurate, and in hindsight, it's obvious I've always been an emotional eater.

When I was in junior high and when my mother would go on her weekend dates and leave me alone in the house for the night and sometimes all night, I would test my independence and try to stave off loneliness by riding my mom's ten-speed bike down Wilshire Boulevard in night-time traffic, heart pumping, until I reached Thrifty's. I'd get a pint of mint chip ice cream, and I'd put the bag in the claws of the rear rack and race home. Then, me and my friend Mint Chip would spend the night with Mr. TV - I loved Mr. TV-- and both those guys always made me feel good and secure.

I moved to Berkeley when I was 19 - not sure why. Do something different. Go on an adventure. I lived on Shattuck in a shabby, run-down one room hotel room with a sink and a community bathroom that I shared with maniacs in bathrobes and institutional runaways, it seemed. The hotel was above a pipe shop, a laundry mat and a McDonalds. And I kept buying meals that consisted only of large french fries and large chocolate shakes until I felt sick. I don't know why. As I wandered around the Berkeley streets alone wondering what the fuck I was doing there – anywhere -- all I wanted to eat was french fries and chocolate shakes. A girl I met told me - not in an apologetic way - she was a binger and a purger so I decided to try it with my potato-icecream meals, and even though I was really sick about what I was eating, I was unable to get myself to throw up. I mean, I did succeed in getting some chunks and globs out here and there, but that repulsed me.

I guess these type of stories go on and on throughout my growing up and adulthood whether I want to admit it or not, and it's kinda sad, I think, to just be admitting it now. This last week I was worried about the business that I closed in December because it WON'T DIE ALREADY-- and I can't get closure on the whole mess yet and that's scary and nerve wracking. And as my stomach was in knots and as I was praying it would all be ok, I had pulled out a loaf of Ezekiel bread and slathered a couple pieces with flaxseed margarine and shoved them in my mouth before thinking about it. I chewed and thought and worried. It made me feel better, I think. I don't know. In that moment, for the first time I thought, Oh Shit, I am eating only out of worry, and maybe I've always done this (DUH). The quality of my food has changed dramatically - thank god -- but it doesn't change the fact that I just blindly shove food in my mouth when I feel lost or alone. And I'm a little exhausted by the notion of now having to tackle this Mindful Eating shit too because I've obviously been in denial this whole time because I obviously don't want to give up my snack friends when I'm in emotional need. But now that I've admitted all this I'm obliged to put the Ezekiel bread back before three slices are gone into the abyss of unsatiated worry.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Meaningful Tattoos

If you have ever struggled with your body image and need examples of how to feel good about yourself no matter your size or physical situation, I suggest you immediately visit a Tattoo Expo. This is three days of unabashed, uninhibited, freak fun where all walks of life are unafraid to literally expose themselves and their art. Kind of like a tamer Real Sex episode. And the best part of a Tattoo Expo is that staring is welcomed. Any group that stereotypically is linked to tattoos is represented. And random types that you would never consider as tattoo lovers are there too. Everyone is there. It's a rainbow coalition of body ink and piercing. Within the confines and comfort of an expo, the body is simply a canvas no matter how round, bony, caved-in, curvy or rippley you are; a canvas to be turned into thoughtful, beautiful art or apparently a walking altar for Satan. The canvases, whether XXXL or XXS, whether adorned with a headless baby tattoo or a Hello Kitty symbol all share a I-Love-What-I've-Done-With-This-Don't-You vibe. It's actually refreshing to be surrounded by that much confidence, and interestingly, flaws become less apparent when someone just struts their shit through a crowded convention center.

What's up.

Uncle Marty?

All of us that have been tattooed are bonded by certain similarities: We have endured the pain of the needle; we share the need to express our creativity through permanently marking ourselves up; and most importantly, we have carved into our skin symbols that are personally very meaningful and significant.

Or not . . .

I talked to one tattoo artist at the Pomona Body Art Expo that my husband and I went to yesterday. The artist had turned away a big guy looking to get the San Francisco 49'ers symbol on his arm. I said, "Why didn't I think of that? The 49'ers!" He said, "You wouldn't believe how many corporate logos I've done." I said, "What, like Starbucks?" "Done it," he said. "COME ON!" I yelled at him. He proceeded to tell me all the companies he's branded on people including a ton of car logos, motorbike part companies, Apple Computer and even Loew's. As in all "art", there is mostly bad, some good and a couple brilliant ones. It is exactly the case at a tattoo festival too. And there are usually themes that run though certain generations and cultures. The old bikers get the lone wolf with the moon and the american flag draped around an eagle ("These colors don't run", but they do fade after a few years if not properly cared for). The chicanos get the great Azteca calendar and that one picture of the warrior holding up his dead, gorgeous princess on a cliff. The more gangsta dudes have sets and shout outs on their face and throats. The swinger group have the cherries and pin up girls and nautical stars. Then there's the goth kids that would tattoo their teeth black if that would take. And everyone dips into the asian-themed tattoos. I just read an article about a kid in England that got chinese characters on his arm that he believed meant, "Honor, Truth, Love" and after every chinese-speaking person laughed after seeing the tattoo, he found out it really meant, "At the end of the day, this is still an ugly boy." Whoa - he got punk'ed asian style. The most beautiful piece I saw all day was on a lean Asian woman I called The Fitness Instructor that had a full-back piece that curved to her body. It was a super detailed, fantastically colored geisha that stood in a lotus-filled creek with an umbrella. Jaw-dropping.

I got something new yesterday. As with all my tattoos, the new ones have a lot of personal meaning. But these new ones have more corny significance than the others, and because I'm not big on the inspirational card/emails/sayings I'm a little embarrassed to say it out loud. Which is why I'm telling the internet. I think all symbols have corny significance which I don't think is a bad thing. I think something that inspires and reminds you of commitments and dedications is ok with me. Like a wedding ring. Like a religious icon. Like the roses I got tattooed on the tops of my feet yesterday. I figured I would tattoo things that that symbolize what holds the highest priority for me; dedication to my health and dedication to my family. With peak health I'm can do anything. And my family only means --everything to me. My health takes care of me physically and my family takes care of me emotionally. Yellow/orange rose on the top of one foot; peachy/pink rose on top of the other foot. Heart & Soul.

While getting tattoos, spectators love to browse by and ask, "Does it hurt?" Which is an obvious question, but as my tattoo artist Tim McVoy loves to comment, I get tattoos in the most painful spots. He was not kidding. The tops of the feet. . . WOW, rough. So, when people asked, "Does it hurt?" I yelped out, "Like a motherfucker," which is ok to shout out at a tattoo expo. I said, "like a motherfucker" forty-eight times. Made me feel better. One classic couple came by and talked to me for a bit. He was a good looking guy with light brown skin and round pool-blue eyes in his mid twenties and she was a slightly haggard biker chick in her late thirties that in quick, certain angles still held a bit of hotness -- though not according to my husband. She was nearly six feet tall, waist-long yellow hair; a big girl in a jean mini and a low, white halter that barely contained humongous boobs. My husband ran to me before they came over and said, "One nipple is pointing straight down and one is pointing at a right angle." I couldn't get over how they were trying so hard to escape her top. When the couple stood over me, the guy grimaced every time the needle grinded over my foot bones. And the lady told me that her tattoo -- a hideous train of botched hibiscus on her lower back -- hurt more than having kids. I said, "Really?" She said, "And I didn't have no drugs having kids." And the guy said, "And she's had six of them." I asked, "Tattoos?" And she said, "No, kids." And in our minds, I know Husband and I were both yelling, "DDAAMMNN." She said, "Yeah, my 19 year old is thinking about getting her first tattoo." She looked at me. And this is a critical moment between two women. When one looks haggard (but she doesn't think so but suspects that I do) and she's put it out there that she has a 19 year old daughter when, though she looks like she's been ridden way hard (though her man obviously is loving him some of that), she's still too young to have a 19 year old . . . and she's waiting for my response. And I give it up because after six kids, she deserves that; women in general deserve that. I don't have a beef with her fishing from me and I am actually touched by her insecurity masked as confidence. I said, "You must've started WAY young, girl." She was relieved and answered with coy, rehearsed shyness, "Yeah." Then a tiny three year popped out from behind her with the guy's exact eyes, and I said, "Wow, your baby is really beautiful." Again, she enjoyed the compliment. And I was glad to boost a sister up as my feet were meaningfully getting razor bladed like a motherfucker.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Original Salsa Cardio

I try to go salsa dancing once a month which ends up being every six weeks - or more - to my dismay, but I'll take what I can get. It's a far cry from heading out four nights a week like I used to religiously do back in my early 20's-- I was on the dance-regulars circuit then -- , but still, I WILL TAKE WHAT I CAN GET now because going out salsa'ing is still my favorite cardio workout.

I went to Mama Juana's last night in Studio City. Mandy met me there who lives four minutes away and my girl Heather met me there who lives nine minutes away. And I schlepped from the OC with a day pack, equipped with provisions and water. I napped mid-way. You know what I really love about the salsa dance circuit? That on a Tuesday night at 9pm a club is already packed and a band that's been around for 15 years is setting up on stage. New dancers are being trained and recruited as a few veterans lighten their dance load, but the salsa scene hardly wavers because who doesn't, if only in their mind, want to look and dance like the picture above? HOT!

And the Mama Juana dancers want to dance, boy. Badly. Once the three of us got asked to dance, the influx of requests never stopped. And how you dance the first dance is key to who will ask you the next time around. My first dance was with a very well-trained, 3 foot Asian man. I am not exaggerating on the well trained nor the 3 foot part. I ducked with every turn, and his hand landed exactly where my ponytail hit my back and he inadvertently kept pulling on it. It must've looked like I had an odd tick, jerking my head back with his pull and jerking again forward to free my hair. Mandy said when she danced with him, he accidentally placed his hand on her titty during a turn, and we then both concluded he was Well-Trained "Accident" Perv. When he grabbed her boob, Mandy yelled out, "Good for you!" to which he -- as trained -- put his hand to his mouth in apology. Heather did not get asked to dance by Accident Guy because he knew we were on to him and secondly, Heather is seven feet tall in heels and he knew he couldn't discretely dance face to crotch with her and pull off any "accidental" crap. His jig was up at our table. The second dance I had was with a man 150 years old with a leopard skin button-down shirt and great wing-tip shoes. Sometimes these old timers are my favorite because they've been dancing since mambo was invented. I envisioned this guy dancing in ol' Havana in the 40's. He was smooth, but looked better from a far then actually dancing with him. At the end, he dipped me (I'm a sucker for a dip!) and when he pulled me up, he said in a warbley grandpa voice, "Were you scared?" "No!" I said with a grand smile. He said, "Good because feel this." And he made feel his Jack Lalane bicep. "Way to go, Pops."

Immediately after I danced with Father Time, I danced with a guy that wore a sleeveless black shirt over a sheer, white, long-sleeved shirt painted with tribal tattoos. I poked Mandy before I left for the dance floor. I have danced with this guy before and I knew I was in for a wild ride so the first thing I said was, "Be gentle," then I mumbled "Tattoo Guy."

I was sweating like a salsa pig for the following reasons: 1. I sweat like a pig, in general. 2. The packed dance floor was upstairs and the carbon monoxide output was at red-line levels. 3. The air conditioning was not working. We were all like fuck it -- let's sweat our balls off because we won't -- we can't -- stop dancing. It was a salsa version of Bikram yoga where the room is heated to enhance whatever Bikram is enhancing; cleared pores? Deeper stretch? Yeah, we were doing all that last night too. I had to make a few trips to the bathroom to wipe myself down, wring out my pants and shirt, comb hair back into place and reapply all make up.

Towards the end of the night, better dancers came out of the wood work including Alex Da Silva who is LA salsa guy extraordinaire. He, while wearing an embroidered tunic that looked surprisingly good on him, whipped his 80-pound partner around into incredibly aerobatic moves. I think he even did some helicopter move where her legs were the blades above his head - it was pretty amazing. I used to dance with Alex in the beginning of his career, about 13 years ago, when he was still based out of San Francisco. Back then he was wiry, ambitious, jerky; he couldn't stay still to save his life. Once Alex and I danced at this crazy little club in Oakland called Caribe and he told me mid-dance that on the next turn I should tuck my knees to my chest and before I could figure out what he was talking about, he back flipped me perfectly and we did not lose one step to the music. "Let's do that again," he said. And before I could protest, he did it again and we kept on dancing like we had rehearsed that a hundred times. When I walked off the dance floor the two people I came with just stared at me, drinks frozen to their lips. One, who I knew from a writing group, said, "Well, I've see it all including your underwear." And the other, his gorgeous poet brother, just kept staring at me until we started officially dating about an hour later.

I left Mama Juana's last night happy and exhausted. I started my drive home with a towel around my neck and a Gatorade IV, and I ran through my mind all the up coming weeks and weekends, scheming the next time I could go out dancing again. Then I imagined Antonio Banderas trying to survive Mama Juana's with his River Dance horseshit. Then I wondered what I'd do if I won the MegaMillions Power Ball lottery . . . hey, it was a long drive home.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Fair Shake

Whenever I mention the OC Fair, the most popular retort is to immediately yell, "FOOD ON A STICK!"

"Yea, the kids love that mama pig at the OC Fair--"

"I went to this booth and got cool henna art on my--"

People can't get fair food unstuck from their brain, and it's because it really is a phenomena all to itself that needs to be yelled out at the mere mention of the fair. I understand. The On a Stick craze I liken to when you read a fortune from a fortune cookie and you uncontrollably yell out "in bed" at the end of your destiny. "You will have much luck - in bed!" It's true with any fair food too; one can always add "on a stick" at the end. Battered, fried potatoes -- on a stick. Whole Fried Onion -- on a stick. Fried, What Is That a Pig's Food? -- on a stick. Diet Coke - on a stick. In fact, I talked to an expert OC Fair goer recently and she said one year she decided to get through the entire day at the fair without ever actually touching food with her fingers. She had Pizza On a Stick, Cheese (like substance) on a Stick and even topped off the night with Cheesecake On a Stick. Mission accomplished.

My family and I went to the fair on Sunday (FOOD ON A STICK!) and because of some mental sickness I have, my favorite activity is to stare at everyone at the fair and take inventory of what they are eating. Yeah, kids go on the rides. Yeah, honey go play the basketball game where the hoop is the size of a facet's washer - knock yourself out because I'm going to be staring at people slacked jawed like I'm invisible. Which I'm not, of course, and with the likes that come to the fair I need to be much more discrete or I could EASILY get my ass kicked. I had my vogue sunglasses on, the type that cover and wrap around 75% of my face so side-glance gawking went totally undetected. Awesome. Firstly, I know it was about 80 degrees on Sunday, but wearing jean shorts that cause yeast infections and cut off all thigh circulation are not a good time no matter what size you are. I do not want to be intimate with your pussy as it is clearly outlined through the shorts, right under the fanny pack. The titty show that goes on a the fair is pretty great too. All shapes and sizes are putting their titties on display; perky to spilling and falling. And I haven't seen that many home-done tattoos since I was hanging out in the Venice beach in the 80's. I was staring at a few thinking to myself, "What the hell does that say? Did they try to cross it out and start over?" Damn. It was bad.

And the food people let themselves eat at a fair (GROSS FOOD ON A STICK!) . . . When you walk around on hay and sawdust surrounded by the rickety clanking of rides and toothless operators and the smell of horse dung and the HARD CORE pitch of game vendors do you feel more inclined to eat some terrible fried shit -- on a stick? I did. I ate some fried sweet potatoes -- on a stick. And I haven't eaten anything fried in a nearly 6 months. I'm still paying the price for that. I even had a diet coke -- on a stick. And I don't even know why. I don't like soda. At one point Husband who, if you recall, is "hardcore militant" right now said, "I must succumb to the funnel cake (on a stick)." I was like, Really? I'm paying that price too, for his funnel cake submission if you know I mean. . .

I must admit that Husband and I are the type of parents that are a bit too suspicious. We discuss Getting Lost strategies. We roll play (me especially) the Stranger Talking To Them scenario. And we wouldn't let them go on the bigger, fast rides. We fear some bolts are probably missing and god knows if the bearded lady with the glass eye that's running the Whirly Twirly going 120MPH is really paying attention. We let them go on the kiddy rides because I am ready - and I feel able - to catch one of my kids at any time if they were to fall off. Seriously. I do not take my eyes off of them at any time believing one may slip out of the dinky little chair with the laughable "seat belt", or if something comes off the track . . . but I'm ready. I decided that since my kids are smart and strong I am also prepared to catch anybody else's kid that falls out of a kiddycarnival ride. It's my gift to them for staring at them for so long earlier in the day. Husband and I will also not let our children on the animal rides. Because I can't stop a charging elephant nor keep it from bucking my little girls off. Husband and I have watched too many sick, homemade videos for that to ever happen.

Come to think of it, I'm not sure why I go to the fair. We get suckered into eating terrible, cramp-inducing food - on a stick, we spent outrageous amounts of money for crappy face painting and kiddy rides that lasted two seconds, and I felt violated by the games vendors -- "Let your kid do one try -God, one try. I'll give her the toy for free. FREE! 3 shots for $20, COME ON! Isn't that worth your daughter's happiness?" -- I'm thinking these people should be on Wall Street or in a car lot at the very least.

I do love a good freak show though and just the staring alone is worth the price of admission for me.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Transformation of a Metrosexual

Apparently I am not the only person in my household on a mission for health and beauty. Handsome Husband has been tapping into his inner vanity, little by little, more and more, each of the nine years we've been together. It's reaching a level that is not exactly of red-flag proportions, but I'm wondering now when it will level off.

When we first met, Husband was a Wall Street broker whose fashion sense was limited to a couple expensive suits and a fist-full of designer ties, and pajamas. Even back then, he was tres uppity about the designers he wore in the work place. This uppitiness was developed because brokers on Wall Street cause a festering macho vanity I have not witnessed before. They are a bunch of bitches. Husband said it was like a morning-ritual square off where another broker would confront him in the hall -- wide gait, hands to the side -- and with the quickest of movements he'd open Husband's suit jacket to reveal a label, or flip over his tie to expose the underbellied label all to either bash or nonchalantly nod (highest form of Wall Street Bitch praise) at the discovered designer. Many of the WSBitches could tell a designer from cut and fabric of suit or tie. "Wha? You only wear Zegna now? That's gay." Meaning: That's hot and I wish I wore Zegna too. And Husband would proudly nod, and strut his Zegna tie which he'd keep flipped over for everyone to see.

A couple months after Husband and I met, I took a trip to Paris with my mother and I bought Husband a tie there because I understood the pressure he was under and I thought, What better way to slap these WSB's around than with some Euro silk? I bought this beautiful, funky fabric (non-recognizable designer) tie and mailed it to him when I got back. (I lived in the OC and he lived in NY at the beginning of our courtship). He loved the tie, but weeks later he confessed that one of the WSB's had discovered the tiniest of labels tucked away in the lining (the lining!) that read: "Made In Italy." I still suspect it was Husband that found this label and though he swore he loved and wore the tie, I would bet lots and lots of money that he never wore the tie to work again just to dodge the "Hey, there's the fake frenchy Italian tie." And if he wasn't wearing the tie at work, it wasn't worn. Unless he tied it around his waist to keep his favorite sweatpants up.

Back then, he was also 25lbs heavier than now and 25lbs heavier than before he worked on Wall Street because he went from avid, near-pro tennis jock to steak&frenchfries-at-midnight Boiler Room broker guy. You know he got murdered on this too by the WSB's. One once yelled out as they passed each other in the hall, "Hey, do you know that pleats in pants are not supposed to POP OUT?" Bitches!

Inevitably, Husband quit Wall Street -- the company he worked for was about to be indicted (whoops) -- and he packed up all his things and moved to Cali to be with me. Smart man. We unpacked his things: expensive suits, fist-full of designer ties, pajamas, sweats, tshirts, and terrible middle-ground gear. He wore untied Timberlands with drab khaki cargo shorts or unflattering mom jeans with striped Polo shirts. He also had a near-purple nylon athletic suit. Maybe in junior high or on the set of Do The Right Thing, this look was fly. I realized our love was true when I looked passed all that. But I knew he needed help with his gear and his health.

Husband is a total stud now; fit and way more lean and muscular than when we first met because California just begs to live life actively, and because I introduced him to my friends Fruit and Vegetable. Later, he met Brown Rice and Whole Wheat Pasta. He even befriended Ms. Tofu who he had been avoiding and sneering at for years; he realized she ain't half bad. He still has flesh affairs with Pork and Steak, but that's few and far between. And as for Husband's fashion sense now. . . it's off the chain. He's become a jeans whore equaled only by me. Over the years I've seen his gear go from thuggy baggy to fitted Metro. Hot. He tries new hairstyles. Experiments with gels. His shoes are stylish and colorful. He even tried moisturizer that I bought him. But considering the bottle is only half-used after a year, he's still warming to that.

The newest click of Husband's transformation is how he now studies Men's Health magazine like I study Shape and Fitness and People and US and whatever other anorexically maddening literature that I can obsessively get my hands on. Husband, after recently experiencing crippling leg cramps on the tennis court, announced that he was going "hard-core militant" at the gym because he didn't want to ever experience his legs failing him again. He was going to strengthen his legs and sculpted his abs like no tomorrow. I said, "What do abs have to do with leg cramps?" He shrugged. God, he's precious.

In the bathroom I saw his Men's Health Ultimate Abs Workout Pull Out tucked above the toilet. After seeing that, my heart gushed a little and I went into the living room and told him how hot and handsome I think he is. Just like he's said to me so many times too when I've lamented a certain size jean or cursed an unflattering picture.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Rize Above Saturdays With Antonio Banderas

Yesterday I had a most excellent day with my BFF Mandy in Santa Monica. I told my husband that Mandy and I talked for seven hours straight, non stop except for three times:

1. When momentarily -- because of an optical illusion created by the angle of which I was looking -- I thought the head of the iconic St. Monica statue situated at Ocean and Wilshire had been knocked clean off. I don't think until that exact moment did I realize how much I loved my hometown.

2. When Mandy and I witnessed Bum Fight; Third Street Promenade Edition. Actually it was a scuffle between a bum (or just an old guy that looked and acted like a bum) and a street vendor. Said bum was belligerent; said street vendor tackled bum, in a nice way, and pinned him under his 250lb body until four cops on bikes skidded up simultaneously (I envisioned hours of practice on this). At this point Mandy and I broke our temporary silence and I yelled out, "Bungee cord him to the rack, boys and haul him in!" This outburst caused us to be chosen to make statements on what happened. One by one and separately, Mandy and I retold the same exact story; even with the same pantomimed actions. Mandy said, "They're gonna think we collaborated this."

3. When at the crescendo of our most excellent day we saw the movie
Rize was an emotionally charged movie. It transcended the Thank-God-Someone-Is-Doing-Something-Positive-In-The-Ghetto vibe the critics are raving about. It, to me, was about anyone genius enough to tap into themselves and create something uniquely and fascinatingly brand new. In many ways, the stand outs of this movie are more brilliant than more affluent innovators because the sole tool to craft this new dance movement was the rawness of these kids. Krumping is not just an outlet and an expression, it's more honest than that. It is down right spiritual; they are channeling God.

On a very minute level, it reminded me of when I was young and angry and I danced more; salsa and jazz classes about five times a week. I was NEVER as technical as other dancers because I didn't take a "real" dance class until age 20. But I always put my back into it, so to speak. I always danced with a lot of emotion because movement and music loosens the dirt that needed to be shaken out.

And after Rize, I was inspired. Now that I'm taking dance-like classes again, I recommitted to let all inhibitions go, make it therapeutic. Make it all meaningful again because what's the point if I don't? Though, if you were to watch one of my dance classes you wouldn't point me out as the Timid One or the Uptight One.

So, I went to Salsa Cardio today knowing that Terri was not teaching, but Antonio Banderas. It was ok, I just really needed a dance class, and to me Antonio is comedic fodder. He was in rare idiotic form today. He started way late because he was still working on his corny chorography and because he was so late, he bypassed the stretching portion of the program (increasingly important to me as I get older) and he begins to choreograph "mini" dances which we performed non stop until we are breathless and he decides to start on the next one. So far so good even if he pauses too often to figure his shit out. After the second mini-whatever he puts his hands on his hips and says with a straight face, "Wha chud we do ness?" It's times like these that I don't hide what I'm thinking well. My head flopped back and I stared at the ceiling. Just before I could suggest, "Krump Battle Off?” a soccer mom from the middle of the pack claps her hands together and yells out, "River Dance!" I laughed, but I was the only one that did. I looked at my girl Cory whom I've come to know from the classes. She rolled her eyes. And I wish I was kidding when I report that Antonio made us do a stiff, awkward mini River Dance. Shifting gears this dramatically was like stabbing a stick in the spokes of a racing motorcycle. I was livid. I thought, “This is Ssaallsa y Tango Cardio!, not McSalsa Cardio, asshole.” When he announced, "Let's add on to the Rrriva Danz,” I picked up my towel and rized up outta there, vowing to never take the class again.