How I Met the Bartender

crabs in cabo san lucasWhen I saw the paddle boards tied to the top of the SUV that was supposed to transport us to the beach, I could taste breakfast again. Just one gulp of saltwater disturbs the delicate fauna of my stomach for days, and no amount of food or alcohol seems to calm it down. It’s like having a hurricane that’s always with you.

Looking at the boards, I knew I was screwed. Members of our group were smoothing on sunscreen and looked forward to the caresses of the ocean. I was thinking about pervasive nausea, skinned knees and a heatstroke.

“Do you want to go snorkeling first of paddle-boarding first?” asked our driver as we made our way to St. Mary’s Bay past the beautiful hotels of Cabo San Lucas. Watching the cacti go by, I was thinking about breakfast in bed and the pool, oh so far away.

Then I had an idea. “Can I just go snorkeling?” I asked. That part, especially in a life jacket that makes you bob like a buoy, I could deal with. “Can I just go snorkeling twice?”

Then I looked around our group, with all its shapes and sizes and virgin enthusiasm, and heard the voice of Sir Richard Branson. “Screw it. Just do it.”

On the beach, I picked out the pink board because it matched my toenails. It had indentations in vague shapes of footprints, and I stuck my feet in them to see if they were a match. They were. We were on.

The surf crushed against the shore with enough ferociousness to smack you against the sand or at least tear off your bikini. That didn’t seem to bother our muscly guide who was in charge that our little group of first-timers wouldn’t sink. We did sign a disclaimer but my Inner Pessimist was screaming,” Really?”

The guy pushed my board forward across the waves, and I tried my follow him and not get knocked over. The salt water was stinging me like an evil form of acupuncture but I figured it was working its magic on my pimples.

“One, two and go!” the macho commanded, expecting me to jump right onto the board and not tip over. I held it with both hands and just about got smacked my face as the next wave rammed us on its way to the shore.

“The trick here is to get on it and stay on it,” I thought, remembering the embarrassing surfing lesson in Hawaii when after watching in-flight commercials, I assumed that surfing was akin walking. Just look at all the people who do it. After two days of lessons, I had a rash even with a rash guard still hadn’t caught a wave.

“Ride it like you mean it,” suggested the macho. I swung my leg over the board and leaned onto my hands for balance. I was also supposed to hold the paddle while performing this, but the macho man took pity on me and waited till I was on my knees.

Getting up and using the ore as my third leg turned out doable. But then the horizon started to tilt. “Imagine you’re on a subway,” I thought. “When your train is going fast and you have nothing to hold on to, you keep your balance by shifting the weight.”

Another wave. Tilting horizon. Muscle memory kicking in. So that’s why the board had indented footprints. “Get on and stay on.”

Keeping my eyes on the horizon and not on the people diving off their boards and showing off their pushup skills, I began to wonder how I was supposed to move forward, towards the cliffs that supposedly harbored marine life. Because there’s only one paddle, the board never goes straight. Two strokes on the right – you go left. Two strokes on the left – you go right. Add the waves working against you and you’re standing still.

But the promise of marine life was too enticing. “Get a rhythm,” I began to hum, counting strokes on one side and then the other. “One, two, three… one, two, three.” Oceanic waltz.

Sweat was leaving a wet trail along my spine. My legs, constantly balancing, screamed for a break, but that meant a potential dive. No dice. I hadn’t been writing a newsletter for my yoga studio for almost two years for nothing and had to have some muscle. The gig came with free classes. Now if only I’d actually gone…

My eyes began to adjust to the glimmering surface of the ocean and as my basic needs were met, I began to wonder about the promised wildlife. In all honesty, had I been a sea turtle, I’d keep this cove with all its novice paddlers and snorkelers and jet-skiers way out of my route. Had I been an octopus, I’d probably not care because no one would be able to get to my anyway, and if they did, it would have been their fault.

Then I saw what I thought were wings, but very close to the water. They went in and out, a whole group of them. I stepped back on my board to give it speed and went to row like a New Zealand native. They were manta rays. Big. Black. Leaping out of the water and going back under. Leaving our little cove in a hurry. My treat from the ocean.

Once the rays were gone, it was time for me to head back too. Everyone else was still paddling around as I made my way toward the macho, who caught my board and invited me to come surfing with them sometime. I said, “”No thank you. A woman has to know her limitations.”

Back at the hotel, I didn’t even take off the wet swimming suite before heading to pool. Why bother, right? Floating like a giant turtle, I made my way up to the swim-up bar and ordered a Virgin Sunset (a sad thought, if you think about it, but tastes great). And that’s how I met the bartender.

lizard in cabo san lucas. marriott hacienda hotel


Doom on a Hot Summer Night

flyBefore going to Africa a few years ago, I had numerous concerns. Elephant foot disease. Sleeping sickness. Malaria. Diseases that haven’t yet been discovered.

We stocked up on drugs like we were going to war and were going to be miles away from any field hospital. I committed to wearing stockings, pants and long-sleeved shirts in any weather, even if it meant that my space-suit outfit turned into a sauna on most days. There were lots of things we couldn’t control but being bitten by a mosquito or a tsetse fly wasn’t going to be one of them.

On the flight over, I thought about how so much misfortune could come from something so tiny and how was it that we didn’t bring our own mosquito net.

When we got there, the first thing I noticed in our hotel room was an anti-mosquito aerosol called “Doom.” I thought the name was more than promising and insisted on turning our room into a gas chamber every night while we went to dinner. We’d come back to a faint smell of “Alpine meadows” and dead bodies on flat surfaces.

Then one day we came to a new national park with black and blue flags all around the hotel’s campus. It’s like someone was doing target practice, which after a story about a leopard that liked to drink from the hose at night somehow seemed fitting. It turned out that the flags were actually targets for tsetse flies. The cloth contained a chemical that tasted great but nixed reproduction. The flies didn’t know about it and enjoyed the feast and the fun.

But I wasn’t content with just waiting for them to go extinct. On a drive through the park one afternoon, I realized that our jeep was filled with tsetse flies, their stingers out like little swards. We’re not talking about the little, delicate looking organs of our normal house flies. Did you ever have to get your finger pricked for a blood test? If yes, do you remember the metal stabber with a sharp edge that the nurse had too much fun jamming into your fingertip? That’s what tsetse flies have. Steel stabbers connected to a deviant brain.

The second I realized what was going on, I grabbed a nylon binoculars case and became a woman on a mission. There was nothing I could do about the myriads of them circling around antelopes and water buffalos, but if they were in the jeep, they were fair game and would be smashed against the windows. I disposed of bodies by returning them back to their natural environment. At the end of the trip, our driver said that they might ban me from the national park for tipping the delicate environmental balance. But we didn’t get stung. And no sleeping sickness (well, napping is another issue).

Last night I was thinking about my obsession again as a lone mosquito buzzed around us in bed. We turned the light on and attempted to kill it because it was impossible to fall asleep with it going round and round like a little jet airplane. We knew that if it landed, it wouldn’t deliver malaria in its stinger and the most we could expect was a nasty welt.  What to do on hot summer night? Do you hide under a sheet and let it win or do you lay there exposed and commit to slapping your most tender parts? “B said. “Where’s Doom when you need it most.”

On running into Mr. Big

My relationship with Mr. Big started in the kitchen. I hated him. Well, not him personally, but the whole idea of Sex in the City. It was the year 2000. I was living in St. Petersburg and considered the fact that they broadcasted the word ‘sex’ on national television right after the evening news the last step in moral degradation.

Several years later, my sister came to visit us in the US. On a road trip up the Highway 1 in California, we were looking for a place to spend the night. This was before having an Orbitz app on my phone. We started with Holiday Inns and Best Westerns and soon discovered that they were full and what was even sadder, way out of our price range. Mentally preparing to spend the night in the car, we came across a motel that had a room under $100 but it was the kind of place where you slept with your wallet under your pillow. We checked in anyway and stuck a chair under the door handle. The idea was that even though it wouldn’t stop an intruder, it might buy us a couple of extra seconds to react.

That evening, since it was too scary to outside, we turned on the TV with three channels and it just so happened that Sex and the City was on. I started to protest but it wasn’t exactly like there were a lot of options. By midnight it turned out that most the women’s issues that I had been trying to figure out on my own had been already deciphered and presented in a TV show. I watched the rest on demand when we got home.

A decade later, yesterday, I ran into Mr. Big at the JCK jewelry show. He was at one of the exhibits. He was there as himself, actor Chris Noth, and everything inside of me went back to those days at the hotel and across the world. It’s crazy how things work out sometimes.


chris noth jck

Digital Exam

B is reading the Berkeley’s Wellness Letter. I am reading over his shoulder. In the Ask the Experts section, there’s a question should men get a digital rectal exam to check for prostate cancer. I keep on reading, hoping to learn about what’s happening on the forefront of science in that area.

About a paragraph down, I come across a phrase “The test involves a doctor of other health care provider inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel for bumps…”

I ask, “So if they’re using the finger, where’s the digital part then?”

B says, “A finger is a digit.”

Saturday Night (Live)

bOn Saturday nights we walk the dogs to the mail box – we now pick up the mail once a week because why bother. Then we sit outside and sort through it and conversations like these emerge…

I am going through the new issue of Exhibitor magazine and say, “You know, I look at a lot of exhibits every month. And it never seizes to amaze me how you can take a 10×20 space and turn into something incredible and inspiring and full of color and ingenuity…”

On the opposite side of the table, B. is reading the WSJ and says: “Maybe we should buy a drone…”

Since Turning 33

losing my headIt just so happens that I like the number 3 and all of its derivatives. Some of you might know that our house is number 6933… So when it looked like turning 33 was becoming a real possibility, I started to get quietly excited but had no idea about the wild ride it was going to be. Just for the past three days:

–          Spent an afternoon at the adult toy expo. Unless I come next year, will probably never see so many sizes and colors ever in my life, even if at some point I turn 99. Thrilled that things are moving away from imitations to sleek little devices with USB storage…

–          Spent several afternoons at a business analytics event trying to wrap my mind around the concept of big data. My mind has stretch marks now and even a few tears.

–          Got a parking ticket for not displaying my registration. Turns out I’ve been driving since Dec without the right sticker…

–          Met with my boss at a piano bar. We sang I feel so emotional, baby!

–          Got a beautiful bouquet from our family. Got emotional.

–          Bought a dress. Enough said.

As my friend a photographer says, #whatesleispossible?

A Pooping Horse

Flying back from Florida, I didn’t realize that my layover was in Cincinnati. I discovered it when registering for the flight and didn’t think too hard about it until we landed. Walking up the jet way, I realized I could see my breath.

“I can see my breath!” I exclaimed to a group of strangers pulling their suitcases next to me. They looked like me like, “Where do you think you are? Florida?”

The trouble was I didn’t know much about Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky. My only association with Kentucky was Jim Beam.

The layover was an hour, and ventured into the warmth of the airport in search of coffee and fried chicken, because nothing makes you feel better about just about anything than piping hot fried chicken.

Then in the window of a souvenir store I saw a women’s sleeping t-shirt with a pink horse and handcuffs on it and a tagline “Fifty Shades of Hay.”

This was when I was seriously sorry that my phone had died.

Inside, they had masterpieces like a pair of boxers with “horsepower” across the front. T-shirts with a slouching cowboy and a responsible-looking dog on a horse and a tagline “Designated Driver.”  In the food dept., there were mint jelly and bourbon-flavored pancake mix.

I brought a glass jar of blackberry syrup to the checkout and as the lady in what looked like a sari was checking me out, she asked,

“Do you need a pooping horse?”

What do you tell a person who obviously think you’re in need of a pooping horse? I was taken aback.

To help me make an educated decision, she took a keychain with a horse from a plastic jar and squeezed the horse. A piece of brown poop made its way out. The lady let go, and the poop got sucked back in. She did that a couple of times, just to make sure I got the idea, delighted with the horse’s stellar performance.

I passed.

But was fully awake now and not in need of fried chicken anymore.

At least I didn’t come across the chocolate version of Kentucky Horse Poop.