Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Actor turned Writer starts a Travel Blog

It was doubtful whether it would be a restful vacation but it was very clear that it would be a busy one filled with visiting family. As many people know, seeing your family doesn’t easily create an atmosphere of rest and relaxation. The Landobear and I were headed East to see our families and hopefully spend a little get away time.  I wasn’t sure if I could combine the two, but I was going to try. Slowly but surely, I was acquiring the talent for viewing my newfound identity as a couple. I had a new family, and there were more to meet. To Orlando this was old hat. To me…well, I was a bit nervous.  The first leg of the trip involved a 3 and a half day stay in New York City. The Second leg of the trip was Vermont to celebrate my Mother’s 80th Birthday.   Orlando’s baby sister was traveling up from Delaware with her husband, and her nearly 2 year old daughter to meet us at his Aunt Elba’s in Spanish Harlem. Orlando hadn’t seen Jess in decades, which meant of course he had never met his niece Mariah. Last Christmas we picked out a little red velvet Christmas Dress for her, which she got after Christmas.  By the time it got there she had grown a size too big to wear it.
Brother and Sister

The red eye through Delta from SF to JFK was a miserable 5 hour and 45 minutes. I was lucky that I sat next to a young woman who smelled pleasant. We dozed but the seats were cramped, and by the end of the flight both of our ass cheeks felt significantly flattened. There was much tossing and turning as Orlando took his neck pillow and used it as an ass cushion.  Orlando was savvy enough to figure out how to get us to our hotel. I had booked us a room at the Chelsea Pines Inn to Orlando’s consternation. He was going to have us stay with Elba, or perhaps his cousin Liz, but I explained that part about this vacation having some relaxing elements to it. I said having a hotel room to get away to would create it.  Orlando is an accountant, and he just rolled his eyes and said in a resigned tone, “ Let the money hemorrhage begin! “
Despite my blear of a bad night’s sleep, my excitement to see a city I hadn’t visited for nearly 30 years seemed to give a much needed jolt of energy. Lando deftly navigated the Subway after a brief misunderstanding in which we purchased a $20 Air Bus tickets instead of the $20 Metro tickets. After Orlando got his “New York on”, (yelling and swearing until the issue was solved) we learned that we had to mail in a request for the misallocated travel funds.  After learning this the yelling simmered down to a slow burn.  We dropped off our bags at the hotel and did a whirlwind tour of Chelsea, and then along the Hudson seeing the view of New Jersey across the Bay.

I was amazed at the amount of people everywhere.  It seemed that there it was not so easy to go and find a space where one didn’t see or hear others. It was Saturday so they were all running , shopping at street markets and strolling about in general.  New Yorkers seemed to pay particular attention to their Blue Jeans. I found myself walking behind some pretty fancily stitched pockets. Strange dreadful odors would belch from various crevices of the city unexpectedly. I noticed that the Natives dodged the odiferous expulsions with ease, but an innocent tourist’s nostrils would get assaulted frequently.  The Subway  air temperature runs  warm and I could see how the city’s homeless population could stay nice and toasty in the winter with some thoughtful  route planning. A question frequently  crossed my mind, how did all these buildings stayed atop this spider web of underground tunnels? I would think that the earth could not support them all. There was no engineer to answer my concern.      

After Lunch and checking into the Hotel we met Orlando’s family in Spanish Harlem.  Apparently his Aunt Elba had just had her apartment painted and could not cook us all dinner. I noticed that this was expected by Orlando – as well as Elba herself. It was understood that she would make the great meal for all of us. When O heard that dinner at her place was no longer an option he told her to find a restaurant that would supply his need for some well-prepared Puerto Rican delicacies. You would think after nearly 4 years  with him that my knowledge of Puerto Rican Cuisine would be quite good but it was rudimentary at best. Most of it I learned on one of my favorite travel /food shows with that arrogant but somehow likeable Chef Tony Bourdain. ( It seems to me if you were going to be successful as a Chef that you have to be an asshole. Anthony Bourdain had this down pat- but rumor has it that he had a kid and it has mellowed him out somewhat.)
My fearless Leader Lando

I was catching on and dodged the stenches and the self-important well-dressed New Yorkers a little more gracefully all the while trying to drink in the sites downtown. Orlando impressed me yet again with how quickly we arrived to the right avenue. He pointed out to me how far more logical this transportation system was than the San Francisco one. I figured it wasn’t sinking in as quickly with me because it had a lot numbers. I seemed to respond to Letters better. After seeing what the average New Yorker put up with in its Metro system, I decided to never complain again about a smelly BART Car.
Before I knew it, we were crossing the street to greet Orlando’s Aunt Elba, his baby sister Jessica and her husband Martin and their downright adorable daughter Mariah. ( It figures that his new niece would have the same first name as one of his favorite singers.) When we looked down at her sweet little face we both fell in love instantly. Whatever parental instincts we had inside us surged forth in a most unnatural and vaguely embarrassing manner. Orlando tickled her much to her delight and I engaged her in various serious conversations about pigeons and concrete.  You should know I don’t take to children easily.  My love for them is conditional. She looked just like a baby Natalie Wood.

How could I resist her?? One of my favorite movies is Miracle on 34th Street with a little Natalie Wood. I wasn’t anywhere near 34th St when I met Mariah but still you can see the significance-right?   I was nervous about meeting Elba and Jessica. I had dressed to impress. I changed out my sneakers for a slightly less comfortable dress shoe and I wore a Black Calvin Klein Blazer, an appropriately rich red dress shirt and a pair of jeans. Orlando looked at me after I had changed and said, “Really honey – you don’t have to do that” but I wanted the confidence it would give me.  When I hugged both of them it was if we had always known each other. There was no need to impress.

Elba needed to help out Lisa
Orlando approved

Elba said she just had a little task to do before we went to dinner. She was helping her former daughter-in-law who ran a lingerie store called “ Too Fierce “. That seemed like an ideal name for a store to be frequented by Drag Queens but I didn’t see a single one. Well maybe I did but ..I can’t be sure whether she was a full on transsexual or not.  

Fierce Lady

Lisa, Elba’s former daughter in law, had learned that her customers wanted more than just crotchless panties and glittered high heels. They wanted authentic Puerto Rican Street food to go along with the authentic Puerto Rican block party going on just around the corner.  Food –as I may have mentioned-was Elba’s specialty and that’s why we were all convening at “Too Fierce”. Elba had agreed to assist Lisa with some cooking .  So right beside the various types of fish net hose and lace up bodices, Elba deftly patted together cooked seasoned ground pork  and cheese into a little pasty to be deep fried  in front of the store.  These were empanadas and they were delicious. Lisa and Elba had quite a little gathering in front of the store. This one particular “ Fierce lady” was a devoted and regular customer. She was also a tad demanding. She was craving something called a Bacalaitos. - a codfish fritter.  Unfortunately Lisa didn’t have the ingredients to make them. The Fierce lady was undeterred , so Lisa’s husband ran out for supplies to make them. The product was mixed up in the bathroom in back in one of the sinks and later many Bacalaitos were frying away merrily in the various Gas stoves in front of the Lingerie store . Eventually the Fierce lady got her fish fritter for the bargain rate of a mere dollar. She disappeared for a bit but the crowd was still strong and Elba was in her element.    (To Be Continued)

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