Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lando's Family

I was a tad mesmerized at this whole hybrid business of Fried food and Lingerie. It occurred to me that at this point I could be easily mesmerized by ANYTHING because we were stretching into our 30th hour without sleep. If there is one thing I really need to fully function –it’s my sleep. I also hadn’t sat down in several hours and the shoes began to pinch.  I fiddled with my camera trying to adjust to impending twilight. Jessica was standing next to me and we were amiably chatting. She looked almost exactly like her brother to me. She had the same smile and soft warm brown eyes. I looked down at Orlando tickling Mariah’s belly while she shrieked in glee at her Tio. I glanced down at Jessica’s belly. She was a few months pregnant. She shrugged and explained to me that it rained when she was on vacation with her husband and she gestured at her belly. “ This is the result.”  I told her that I thought her Mother is probably delighted. She agreed she was.  I liked their mother.  Their mother’s name is Elsie and Elsie and I had met  in Oroville California a little over a year ago. Elsie –who had reportedly had ancient issues with her  only son coming out of the closet-surprised everyone by hugging me goodbye and telling me to take care of her son. This story had gotten around because Jessica was staring at me wide-eyed. “ My mother is not a “hugger”. She rarely did that to us growing up. She told me that she was happy that Lando had found you. “  I felt one more latch slide into place in regards to my relationship with Orlando. I didn’t need the blazer and the dress shoes. I had Elsie on my side.                                           

Finally Elba finished up and explained that we didn’t need to go to a restaurant. A family friend was having a big Barbecue and we were all welcome. Boy – these Puerto Ricans do things differently! It would be rare that anyone in my family would be thrilled that a family member showed up to one of their parties with 5 OTHER MOUTHS TO FEED. I asked if I should bring some wine and Elba looked at me as if I had just spoken Martian. No No – it would be fine. She went through the directions to get to this park with Jessica and Martin.  We accompanied Elba. Elba is Orlando’s Aunt on his father’s side. Orlando’s father died of a Heart attack at a very young 41. Elba was so grief stricken she nearly threw herself on to Orlando Sr’s coffin as it was lowered into the grave.  Elba chatted comfortably about the kid who was the guest of honor at this Barbecue. “ He’s a good kid.” Orlando asked what they were celebrating.  Elba said that it had been a full year since he was out, so the family was celebrating. My mind went, “Wow – this is some progressive party. The kid comes out of the closet and they celebrate the anniversary date!!” Orlando actually processed it correctly. “ Out…of Jail?” Yes Elba tells us. “He shouldn’t have done what he did but hey, they shouldn’t have messed with his family in the first place. He got out early of course for good behavior and he’s been doin real good.”  My eyes grew wide. I put my hand on Elba’s shoulder to slow her pony-like trot. “ Hang on Elba, “ I had trouble catching my breath. “ So we are going to a picnic, in the park, here in Spanish Harlem to celebrate this guy’s year anniversary of being out of prison?”  She nodded and said, “yup! And you get to meet my daughter Liz too! ”  I mumbled to Orlando that I didn’t think taking pictures at this “event” would be welcome and perhaps my camera should stay in my back pack.
When we arrived to the park my first thought was , “ Oh this is where all my exboyfriends ended up.”
The thug-quotient was high but there were a lot of old men and kids and women. The food had the feel of a church supper.  I suddenly felt my knees wobble with fatigue. I panicked trying to find a place to sit with my plate and Orlando found us all a bench where we gathered away from the crowd. The food was interesting and somewhat tasty. Not many green things but there was Yucca steamed with Onions and there was a little pork left –enough for Orlando and I to have a few bites. He swooned with each bite. That all went to hell when he sampled the Macaroni and cheese which was terrible. Whatever ingredient the cook had used to bind the cheese to the milk and butter didn’t work and it was this gloppy flavorless mess. I had to agree with Lando about the pork though. Those few bites were absolutely packed with rich pork flavor.  He refused to take my last bite. That’s love eh?

Elba and Liz
Liz is a Puerto Rican bombshell and a chip off the ole Elba block. “Cuz!!!”  Orlando thundered at his cousin. She was in oblivion kissing and greeting and oohing and awing over the spell casting Mariah.
“ Cuz!!!” He bellowed somewhat playfully, “Where the hell were you? What took you so long??” She mouthed something but we didn’t catch it. After saying, “What?” a few times she hissed at him through her teeth, “ Because I was having Seeeexxxxxxkssskss!!!”  If there is ever an explanation that Orlando will thoroughly understand – it’s that one.  Liz had a huge persona and it was “the Liz show”.  I used to have a friend that brayed at me “A.A.P.A.!!!”  (All About P.A.) when I got a little too self involved. Something told me that Liz had a friend that did that to her too. She was damned funny and she SHOULD have her own comedy show. Her delivery was spot on!  It was later explained to me it is a Puerto Rican female genetic trait. Humor. Who knew?  Our visit was brief. Plans to meet Liz the following night perhaps? We all headed over to Elba’s while Elba popped into various markets purchasing food for the gigantic feast Orlando had requested. Apparently the paint had dried and all her furniture had been put back into place.  My brains were scrambled eggs and I was slowly losing the feeling in my feet.  Having been awake for nearly 36 hours was taking it’s toll and I wasn’t thinking clearly. Case in point: I whipped out my smartphone to look at Facebook on a street corner and Orlando barked at me to put it away. Many young men would like a smart phone like mine he informed me.. I see.  Well I then requested that we get Elba back ASAP because I was walking around like The Living Dead and only digesting part of whatever I heard.                                                           

More walking until we reach The Projects. Through the hallway where men were just hanging out…looking furtive and dangerous.  Jess and Martin and the baby were already in Elba’s apartment.  Yup – Lando was right. The blazer and the dress shoes were absolutely a drawback at the moment. Elba plowed onward, unphased by all of this. She chattered comfortably about news of that family member and life around The Projects. She seemed content. Why did I want to pluck her out of this place? Just because I saw scary looking men didn’t mean she did.
Her apartment was nice. It was very comfortable and didn’t really look as if it belonged in this building. Everything seemed new. I sat on the couch and well…that’s all she wrote. I couldn’t keep my eyes open so I nodded off right in front of Jessica and Martin and Mariah. Orlando knew we needed to get back to the Hotel Room. We were coming back tomorrow anyway. We zipped outside –through the lobby with even more scary looking men and caught a cab. As the taxicab sped along the congested brightly lit streets, I mumbled to Orlando that we had to rescue Elba from the projects! “ No honey.” He said placating me. “ She doesn’t want to be rescued. Trust me on this.”

Orlando knows Elba better than I by far

We arrived to our Hotel room. Each room was a tribute to a silver screen star. Ours was the perpetually kissing Tony Curtis. How appropriate. It was Saturday Night in THE BIG APPLE.  So we were going to just take a quick disco nap and paint the town red later…except we didn’t awaken until  7AM the next morning.  (Sigh)

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