Monday, July 27, 2015

Hooray! Hooray! It's A holi-holiday!

Late Saturday afternoon a mighty wind of change blew in, slamming windows and doors, rattling the glass. The temperature dropped, and by 10:30 pm I was actually cold in the breeze.
I follow the Moskva down to Gorky Park...
Just like that, our whole vacation turned around.
Everyone's attitude improved. Yesterday was fantastic start to finish.
Today's been great.

And let me tell you that even in my hot and crabby moments, after the endlessly soggy June and July that was DC, I've enthusiastically embraced the sunshine of Southern Spain. It's glorious. It's happifying. It's delicious.

And it's up for like 30 hours a day. It's bright and spectacular, if a little relentless. It is wonderful.

I say this as someone who goes to the beach slathered in high SPF sunscreen, with a long-sleeved swimmy shirt and a hat and sunglasses.

But I love the sun. I love it so. It makes me feel alive.

Sadly, however, I am pale and freckled and did all kinds of skin damage in my youth in the Indian sun. So I'll take the random looks.

Nobody is all, "Oh? You're American?!?" No. They are all, "Hi foreigners!"

But in a really friendly way.

The beach is an interesting study in bodies. You see all ages and sizes, states of firmness, and degrees of undress--tending toward less rather than more.

We are the only ones all covered, anyway until 6 or 7:00 pm. Yesterday evening Nick hadn't yet arrived with the bathing suits and the kids were clamoring to go in.

So I let them run into the waves all nakey-nake and delighted.

In fact, Jordan's privates have been chafing and so a couple times at the beach I've let him take off his bottoms. Spidey swimmy shirt protection on top, his little bottom bare and white as the driven snow.

Nobody cares. No pasa nada.

Our beach has super white, soft sand and a very gentle slope and low, warm waves. It's basically perfect. (Except, of course, for all the salty water. And the waves. And the nutsack-chafing sand.)

Before we came Olga and Santi both had mentioned to us that there would be a lot of women with no tops on. I assumed they were concerned that I might be offended, because every time we go to the pool I am covered neck to stomach to wrist.

So I assured them that my shirt has nothing to do with American modesty and is entirely about wrinkles and skin cancer. And vanity.

I mean, let's be honest. If I weren't worried about the aforementioned afflictions and hadn't done so much breastfeeding, I'd be running around boobs a-blazing.

And now Real or Not Real is one of my new favorite games.

Here I am, Peeta Mellark at the beach.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Day 11 dispatch from the wine and underwear department

We may have hit the point of kind of pretty much all hating each other this morning.

OK, we didn't all hate each other.

The kids just kept being themselves, and as such were intermittently enraged about: the application of sunscreen; the big wind; locating the Elsa and Anna "babing" suit; the lack of Angry Birds; the wretched fact that the sea has so much salt water.

So really only some of us hated each other.

OK, so Betty didn't really hate anyone either. And apparently neither did Nick. He was just resentful and enraged.

So maybe only one person was actually hating.

It all starts with the apartment I chose, which, if we're being honest, sucks in a number of ways. Yes, it is right on the beach, in a great location. And it has a terrific pool. But it has no AC and even with fans the bedrooms are hot, and the beds are uncomfortable and the sheets are awful and nobody is really sleeping much and that makes everything extra hatey.

But this is a whole nother story. And also at the root of many things everything right now. So when something else goes wrong, there it is: I chose it. I did this. Me.


Our struggled-for internet suddenly stopped last night. We knew it was about to run out, and that we needed to put more money on. So yesterday Santi came over and helped Nick load 50 euros onto it, which apparently would allow us a crazy amount of internet. Like, we could basically stream circus porn until we left kind of internet.

Except that last night it stopped.

Nick was trying to work and then asked if I actually was streaming circus porn because he had no bandwidth. But no. There was just no internet.

Ya no mas. Porque, Orange?

Dios sabe.

Nick tried to figure out what was going on but we are in Spain and everything is in Spanish and then the page wouldn't load and then he kept reading it to me and I was all fuck just show me the goddamn page so I can see if I can understand and there were words I didn't know and we both had no idea.

We had so much money in our account! Where did our internet go?

Also, if I hadn't chosen a sucky apartment we wouldn't be so hot and we'd have internet. So there was that.

Neither of us had answers. Just rancor.

So we went to bed angry and Nick woke up angry and I knew he would so I awoke loaded for bear.

Neither of us are people to just be mad in a corner. Oh, no. When one of us is upset the other has to participate in the choler cha-cha.

So there he was all big and glaring around and then I handed him an angry coffee and we got into this stabby spiral of vexation and it was all very terrible.

And, as it turns out, when you are on vacation together, you are so very together. So OK, you signed up for sickness and health, and yet it starts to feel like til death do you part might ought to come sooner rather than as much later as your plane ticket might suggest.

Because there you are, so fucking together and you don't have very many other places to go. Plus, you want to be together. You just want to be happy together, goddammit.


So I flounced out of the apartamento of rage, recycling in hand, and headed to the free wifi (pronounced weefee) at McDonald's to find an Orange number that Nick could call for help. Ayuda!

It was 8:45 am and I got a coffee while I waited to connect. There was a guy in a swimsuit getting four beers.

Rock on, youth.

Anyway, I found an English-speaking help number, and What'sapped Nick, who called it, and by the time I returned from buying bread and an 8-litre bottle of water (hand to god, no exaggeration) it was done.

Apparently the conversation went like this:

Nick: You've turned off my internet. Even though I put 50 euros on my account yesterday.

Orange guy: Yes, you have 50 euros of credit.

Nick: So why did you turn off my internet?

OG: Oh! Did you want to use it for your internet account?

Nick: Yes. That's what I bought it for.

OG: OK. I'll attribute it. You know, in the future you can just do this on the internet.

Nick: Not if you shut my internet off.

OG: You have a point.

So we had internet. And still.

It took us quite a while to come down from The Incident. We went swimming all glarey and angry-polite and each-other avoidey. And let's not pretend that kids make any situation less stressful.

Today I was told that quite a number of people get divorced after going on vacation together.

I forgot to ask if they tend to be Spanish or American.


Fortunately, this afternoon we went out for Santi's birthday lunch. You know how sometimes you just need something to snap you out of a mood?

We talked to other people, ones we really like. Nick ate a large piece of meat. There was lots of delicious food. We smiled and laughed and truly had a great time.

Nick made me laugh so hard across the table and it reminded both of us that actually, we like being together. That we made a good choice in each other.

These people--these people being my nearest and dearest--might drive me completely fucking crazy (and let's be candid, I need no help) and yet there's nobody I'd rather swelter with. If I'm going to spend too much time with anyone, I want it to be them.

Just, maybe, with a little AC.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Spain, Day 8. This might be long and nakey and drunk and too much eff-word. (Sorry.)

We are a week into our vacation. It's gorgeous. It's wonderful. It's brutal.

If I hadn't had a newborn (twice) and a C-section, I would say I have never been so tired in my entire life.

So OK. I'm the third tired I've ever been in my entire life. These little people we created, they are fucking relentless. They are exhausting.

A couple friends said that vacation with kids is not a vacation; it's a trip. They cited this post.

Yes. Agree. Sort of.

Because, OK, a trip. But more like a trip to prison. In a really pretty place.

Prison on a beach. Where you sleep with someone kicking you in the head. And you're awakened too early with a blood-curdling scream.

It's really hot but you can't do anything about it. You have fans, but the heat. God, the heat. And the food next door is amazing but first you're stuck at a place where the terrorists will eat and you have to be here because if they don't eat they're complete assholes and you pay.

And then when you sit down next door to eat they sprint down the beach to the climbing structure. They run fast enough that it takes you a while to find them and even your Spanish friends start to fret.

And half of you thinks, "Oh, fuck you people. If you've been kidnapped because you ran away down the beach it's your fucking fault and if we never find you at least I'll have a week of actual vacation."

And the other half or really most of you is completely hysterical, running around through the sand, frantically screaming, "Jordan! India!" and hoping that people don't think you're just a lunatic who enjoys geography.

Right now I'm sitting in my underwear drinking wine and eating chocolate. I feel a little bad, but it's not early for Spain. Hell, our friends and I had 54 beers with our lunch paella yesterday.

And I haven't been drinking with breakfast. Even though Betty and India and I have been up at 7:45 for walks on the beach despite the fact that we didn't actually GO to sleep uptil 2 am, we haven't yet started spiking our coffee.

Maybe next week.

We arrived in Madrid a week ago. It was hot as Mordor.

OK, that's an exaggeration. The news said it was the same temperature as Cairo. The air, apparently, is coming straight from Africa. It is the hottest hot in the recorded history of Spanish heat. It's fucking hot.

And me, I would pick hot over cold any day. So when I say it's hot it's goddamn hot.

We spent the afternoon draping ourselves about. We went to bed early and slept 12 hours and got up just in time to catch our train.

Nobody really slept on the plane and there were a lot of terrific movie options, and I watched one--the Exotic Marigold Hotel--and cried pretty much all the way through because timing! And then we all went to sleep for 15 minutes and then India woke up and so she sat on my lap and watched something (Peppa Pig? Mama. She's a pig. Because they're all pigs. Except that bull. I dunno.) for the 56 hours until they served breakfast and we arrived.

We spent a limp afternoon and night in Madrid and then a fabulous day and night in Cuenca, which is just so fucking spectacular and beautiful and I cannot say enough nice things.

I keep wanting to say it's colonial but that's because I've spent a lot of time in colonized countries. It's medieval. And amazing.

Our friends Santi and Olga picked us up and whisked us off to family lunch with Santi's family. Oh. My. God. So delicious. Tomatoes from the garden. Little shrimpy things that you suck the heads out of. Lamb chops. Cheese. Sausage. Everything. And more of everything.

Our hotel was once a monastery. It was grand and delightful and amazing.

And then we came to San Juan de Alicante, which is where Santi and Olga come every summer. Our sons are friends, and at some point after I'd convinced Nick that we had to leave the country this decade or I would up and die, we decided to join them. Our beach holiday. The first two-week holiday we've taken as a family and the second I've taken with Nick since our honeymoon. And the second he's taken in 15 years.

I mean, he's still working. But much less.

So. The Mediterranean. Is fucking spectacular. I'd forgotten how much this resonates with me. This is my ocean. Well, this and the Indian Ocean. Both warm and perfect.

When we lived in Cairo, we used to go to the beach in Alexandria. I mean, Alexandria Comma Egypt. And we'd pass old WWII tanks on the way.

We'd swim and we'd burn and it was hot and warm and wonderful. My brother and I would have cowrie-finding contests and we'd help each other scrape the tar off our feet and it was glorious.

This, for me, is the ocean. The Mediterranean. Water that caresses you. Water that's so salty on your lips. That even babies and Nanas and I can enjoy without an intake of breath.

The cold Atlantic and the even colder Pacific? Brutality.

But as I said, it is Mordor hot here. It is never this hot. People do not really need AC. Except this summer, where there is currently this crazy heat from Africa. Our apartment is kind of like a heated box of death. So we bought fans.

They mitigate the heat death a bit. Not enough.

We wake up hot and tired and crabby and it goes from there.

You go anywhere outside the apartment, and people are all, "It's so hot. It's never this hot."

You get in the elevator and people say this. You go to buy water. Everywhere. It's so hot. Dios! Que calor!

They say this with the appropriate accent marks.

Today we fantasized about sleeping in the grocery story. It was so lovely and cool. I said I'd like to sleep near the produce. Betty chose the fish because, despite the smell, it was near the bathroom. Practical. Nick said he'd sleep near the liquor.

We didn't consult the kids, as at the time we were considering giving them to a kind-looking woman who was assessing the tomatoes.

It is hot and these small people are fucking killing me. And now my wine has dripped on the keyboard. And they're clamoring for the ocean. No, the pool. The piscina! The beach! THE PISCINA! LA PLAYA!!!

I've been eating and drinking everything. This was advice I got. "Say yes to everything!" So I have. Even pig ears.

I'm too old to be propositioned. So I really can say yes to everything without awkwardness. Nobody is all, "Sex?" No. It's, "Fried pig ears? Like, well fried?"

Seriously. You'll be here one day.

So. We go to Spain basically...never. We go on vacation just about never. I paid good money to have one of these children. And something approaching that for this trip.

And yet I am all, ohmygodthesefuckingpeoplerekillingmewhatkindofvacationis? thisandit'ssogoddamnhot!!!

Mordor. Paella cooked over the volcano. Wretched ittle ingrates who run from you and complain that it's so boring when you want to go to an actual restaurant.

And still there are the sweet moments. Nana and India together on the swings. Family lunch with our friends. Paella with our friends while our kids, who run away but come back because they burn their feet on the burny sand, jump into our laps.

Vacation. Trip. Prison.

I am too hot. I am in my underwear, with a large glass of wine in my hand. It is so hot that the poor glass is dripping desperately. Betty is languishing in the other room. Nick has kindly taken the complaining kids to the pool.

We are in Spain. We are on the Mediterranean. We are hanging out with friends. We are eating and drinking all the things.

What I'm saying is, it's really pretty awesome.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Some people call it a one night stand, but we can call it paradise...

Dear AESers,

I love you. I miss you. I will always love and miss you.

When I am with you, I am my truest, most ridiculous, most joyful, most unfiltered self. And I am pretty candid and transparent to begin with.

With you, I feel safe. This wasn't always the case, as I was a scared, insecure, fucked up teenager. I loved you back then. I might have just been scared to talk to you. Like if you were a boy, for example.

You were gorgeous then, and you're even more gorgeous now. I'm just not nervous anymore. And boy, does that feel good.

And for one weekend, one delicious, delightful, intense weekend, there we all were, back together.

Some of you I have known since I was born. Some of you were my teachers. Some of you I hadn't seen for 30 years. Some of you left before I arrived, but you were legendary and I'd heard your name so many times that meeting you, I felt like I was meeting a celebrity. Some of you came after I'd left, and it felt great to have a new friend.

So 30 years later, or maybe for the first time, but from a long-ago place, we hugged, and no time had passed.

I may have burst into tears.
And then, in the next moment, laughed really hard.

Because you walked back into my life from the best, richest, most beautiful time of my life. The time that I go back to in my dreams. The days that, when I am in a dark place, I ache for. Those days are my happy place. Even if, let's be honest, back then I was filled with teen angst.

The truth is, you are my happy place.

I love my husband and my children more than my own life, and they are my people. But so are you. And in some ways, you know me better than Nick ever will. It's not good or bad; it just is.

You can explain going to school in Delhi and the vultures in the tree outside the front gate, or that one time in Goa, or camel trekking in Jaisalmer.

But you cannot explain the anticipation you felt sweating in a cab on the way to the Gunghroo. Or the nervousness backstage before your entrance in the school play. Or the smell of camels. Or the ache in the air before the monsoon hit, and the joy of diving into puddles on the soccer field between classes because they'd filled in the hour that you'd been sitting in Geometry.

These things are part of our souls.

We've grown, but we're still the same. Just better. So much better. Some of you loved my mom in high school, and you love her still. Seeing this makes me so happy. These reconnections nourish the deepest parts of our beings.
We're older and stronger and kinder and more beautiful. We've lived through joy and through trauma. We have survived war and cancer and terrible loss.

We are beautiful human beings, all of us.

Maybe you could pack more hugs and drinks and laughter and dancing and just general joy into a weekend, but I'm not sure how.

Saturday night we were dancing to Tarzan Boy and Rio and someone said, "If only the dance floor had squares that lit up." If only it were the Gunghroo in the Maurya Sheraton.

We danced and we danced and we got all hot and sweaty and Anne said she wished she could take off her clothes. And I agreed, because when I have been drinking and dancing it always seems like a good idea.

But we agreed we'd be kicked out of the hotel and then it would all come to an abrupt and shameful end. So we just kept dancing and sweating.
I mean, we didn't have to do all those moves to Kung Fu Fighting. Wendy and I didn't really have to try to organize a flying leap that may not actually have worked out all that well.

But I regret nothing.

We ended the dancing in a circle with All Night Long. I type this with a lump in my throat. I can feel us swaying to the music, and feel the knowledge that time is short.

And then we took the party upstairs to Sid's room. Somewhere around 3:00, people started to trickle away. Anne said, "I'm not ready for it to end."
None of us wanted it to end. Just like in high school, we prowled the hotel hallways, on the way to the next party.

If only we were still together now.

If only.

If only we were back in Delhi. If only it were the mid-80s, and we were all so young and gorgeous and, though we were dressed up and sipping gin and tonics in fancy hotels, so very innocent.
We thought we were so worldly and sophisticated. And we had no idea.

If only we had our whole lives ahead of us. My friend Kassie said, "If only I'd known then what I know now."

Yes. We seized the day, we really did. But I'd have seized it harder. I'd like to have known then that you all loved me, and didn't judge me. I'd like to have known that actually, my butt looked just fine in those jeans and I didn't really need all that blue eyeliner.

Anyway. I know it now.

When we're looking for my son's shoes and I ask if he knows where they are, he says, "They're somewhere." This is always true.

And when I look into my heart, my somewhere is you.

I love you and I miss you. Hugging hello fills me with such joy. Dancing and laughing and sneaking liquor in big hotels makes me feel like I am 17 again. In the most beautiful, joyful, giddy, wonderful way.
Saying goodbye to you breaks my heart. I love you. You dazzle me.

And you always will.



Thursday, July 02, 2015

And I still can't get Nick to call me Khaleesi

After nearly six years in our house, we decided it was time for a kitchen back splash.

I'd never given any thought to a back splash. I didn't have one in my condo. I'm not overly observant, and didn't used to pay much attention to architectural details.

So it could be that the numerous apartments I'd rented over the years had one. Or maybe they didn't.

But you want a back splash, it turns out, so that when you splash things on the wall behind the sink or stove, you can wipe them right off. Like red wine, for example. Not a good splash.

Plus these back splashes, they can be pretty.

I'd never looked for tile before, so when Australian Builder took me to a tile place I was a little overwhelmed.

After 45 different attempts, I found a very pretty marble mosaic that I thought would do nicely.

They did the square footage and it turned out to cost oh, approximately 8 kabillion dollars.

At that point I actually started thinking about what I wanted. Like, about what fit our house and personality. (You'd think you'd start with that, and why do I never, ever start at the actual reasonable beginning?)

We have a Victorian house, so I started googling Victorian tile. Do you know about the Arts and Crafts Movement? I certainly didn't. But I'm now completely in love with so many designs from that era. Eventually I came across William Morris Tile.
The first thing I saw was this William De Morgan Persian dragon tile. Isn't he lovely? Or maybe she? I dunno. In any case, I now have two of him/her.

I contacted Christine, the owner/artist, who said she'd be delighted to talk tile with me.

Her original dragon set had 13. I asked if I could order 15, and she said, "Yes, but I wouldn't want you to have to do repeats. So let me consult my medieval bestiary and come up with a couple more."

She had me at Let me consult my medieval bestiary.

This is a phrase I hope to use one day.

So I bought a bunch of dragons and then set about choosing matching field tile. And then you need to choose a complimentary grout color and matching caulk (heh). So many decisions!

Christine said, "Don't pick light beige matching grout or it'll look like a summer camp project." So we picked a light silver. I think it's kind of perfect.

The project started in February with walls being ripped open and under cabinet lights being installed and then walls patched with white stuff but not actually repainted because we were going to tile in like 10 minutes!

So there was this loooong span of time in which Australian Builder was in Australia and then way too busy. And the walls were splotchy yellow and white with maybe an extra splash! or two. The situation deteriorated rapidly, is what I'm saying.

During this time, Christine made more dragons, and dangled them in front of me. Turns out I'm a sucker for a pretty dragon.

And in fact, she has so many delightful tiles that I love that I've been looking for other tiling opportunities. Eventually we're going to put these fantastical birds on a fireplace. And might we tile the sofa, for example, Nick?

Because they are just awesome and I love them so much and really, how can you have too many dragons, Betty bought me six more. Australian Builder was worried we had too many, and we'd be overwhelmed with dragons. But in the end, they all spaced well, don't you think?

We did wind up repeating two of them, which I think was perfect.

Christine very kindly gave me an extra dragon because she said that the Horus Deliciarum really ought to go with the 10-horned Apocalypse Dragon from the Lieber Floridus, and I hadn't ordered her.

There they are pictured below on either side of the switch that needs something done to the wiring, apparently. Nick said the wires got squozen when they got put back in.

India calls the one on the right of the outlet Lady Princess Dragon. Although I assume she's more of a queen.
I'm going to risk boring you by putting up the whole kitchen.
Here's the other side:
Sorry for my not-great photography skills. And hey, here's a used pan on my stove!
The flying gecko dragon on the end, uh, above the gin, is one of Nick's favorites.

In fact, we all have our favorites and when people come over, I love to hear theirs, and their reasons for it. Pretty sure I've weirded out at least one guest with my insistence on talking about them.

I love this basilisk dearly, mainly because his face reminds me of my dog Gloria's. OK, so technically they're not all dragons. They're more like fantastic beasts, I suppose.
India's favorite is the Japanese Baku, because it eats bad dreams. Christine said we needed a Baku, whether we got the tile or not. And who wouldn't want their bad dreams eaten?
A couple people suggested it sounded unusual when I told them that we were tiling our kitchen with dragons.

But I am just fine with being unusual, and I am super in love with them.