Beer and botanas

The idea was a Saturday night of live music — what was supposed to be a friend of Joy’s and Brendan’s debut with a band at a small Mexico City Cantina. That’s not exactly what happened.

Instead, in a cab ride to Centro Historico, where we were going to do the leg work to find a location for a going away party, we spotted a billboard for Coldplay. Slated to play that night at Foro Sol, we started talking about whether getting tickets would even be possible. We could try to buy off the street, or do our cantina crawl and try to get home to check the Internet for tickets.

Foremost on our minds, beer and botanas, the freebies offered by the cantinas in the hopes that you will stay and drink and drink and drink some more. We started with a helpful map provided by a midwesterner in Mexico: 

The mission: find a cantina to host a going away party for Joy and Brendan. The obstacles: dirty bathrooms with no sinks, small spaces with little air circulation and some rather odd delicacies offered for free.
First up was Salon Corona, which looked like it could have been inside a mall food court. Clean with plenty of space, the cantina offered a sky-view from inside with a retractable roof. As fast as we could move to a table in the shade, several waiters moved to close the roof and shut out the direct sun. Before we ordered, the waiter slid a bowl of limes on the table and some spicy pickled carrots. I tried a Michelada – – Mexican style — which means no spice tomato juice. And we ordered some delicious tacos al pastor.
Next up, La Puerta del Sol. Set up like a small diner, there were plenty of comfy and well-worn booths to sit in. This time, I tried a Michelada with a darker beer and ordered it “cubano” meaning with the spicy stuff added. The food was great and it kept coming, from tortilla soup, to flautas stuffed with beef. Yum-O.
La Faena was next. It was a huuuuuge space with a wide-open entry way and a dark, damp feel. Cool, and clammy. Can you describe a bar that way? Our waiter reminded me of the doorman Lurch on the show, the Adams Family.  We ordered more beer and no food this time. The interior was interestingly decorated with matador costumes featured in glass showcases and large posters and photographs of famous bull fighters. The downside here was a creepy bathroom. The upside, a neat jukebox with lots of Mexican songs.
On the way to our next stop we ducked into El Rey de Pavo, or The King of Turkey. Before the Spaniards arrives in Mexico the indigenous people ate domesticated turkey as a source of protein. Here, Joy and I shared a fresh turkey taco with guacamole. Delish!
Now we were off to Dos Naciones. Loud and crowded the place offered an interesting menu of freebies including, snails, pig knuckles and brain quesadillas. I ducked of to the WC and Brendan and Joy placed an order or carnitas — or so they thought. I came back to the table from the questionable loo to find them staring at a place of meat. On closer look, it was really a plate of fat advertised to be meat. No one was brave enough to try it.  
Last but not least, La India.  Too crowded to sit downstairs we found ourselves seated upstairs in a room with a low ceiling and a prominent view of the ladies room. We skipped the food here too but had another beer and reviewed the places we had stopped. For a mere 30 pesos Brendan was able to take home the napkin holder featuring a red logo of a scantily clad  indigenous woman.

Full of beer and laughs we opt to head straight over the Foro Sol to see if we can buy tickets on the streets for Coldplay! Yeah! As we walked the gauntlet of knock-off Coldplay t-shirts and souvenirs we were approached by a scalper. He had ticket on the floor but he wanted 2000 pesos for them. That was way out of budget as we had already decided 800 pesos was as high as we would go. Next he offered tickets in seats at the back of the arena!  The show was the best ever and the biggest I have ever been to — 55,000 people in attendance. Viva la Vida!

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I fell in love

I fell in love with a song that I am sure many of you heard long ago. But there in the stadium with 55,000 other people, Chris Martin was singing only to me. I couldn’t breathe. The audience sang. How could I have not heard this song before? The words that stuck with me …

Tears stream down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down your face
And I . . .

Tears stream down your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes

I wanted to know the rest. I asked my comadre what it was called and she knew. Fix You. How could I not know? So as we left the stadium I repeated the name of the song over and over in my head. I didn’t want to forget. I wanted to hear it again. I wanted to know the words. As we walked around the stadium, exhausted, to the designated exit, everyone was handed a cd with a neon pink butterfly on the cover. Could I possibly be lucky enough to have in my hands the song?

When I returned to San Antonio, and picked up my rental car (after the car wreck) I popped in the cd. And there it was, the song, complete with the live audience singing sans Chris Martin. And now I know, it came out in 2005 on X & Y. Thanks to www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/3530822107858543356/ I now know all the words. And the song is just as poignant as my first impression. And after a bad breakup 6 months ago, meaningful. Personal. Here’s some more:

When you try your best, but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Before this song, the last song to strike me with this level of passion was at a Brandi Carlile concert in 2009. She stood on the edge of the stage at the famed Gruene Hall, her band unplugging, and asked if we minded if she sang without the mike? She was so earnest and sincere, how could anyone object? And she stood there and belted out the most touching, goose bump raising song I have ever heard. I cried. And I’m not the only one.

These are the verses that stuck with me:

When you’re sad you know I wish I could be there
To make your sorrows disappear
And set your troubles free
It’s not fair for me to be this far from you
But I promise to stay true, wherever I might be

Time keeps burning
The wheels keep on turning
Sometimes I feel I’m wasting my days
How I miss you and I just want to kiss you
And I’m gonna love you till my dying day
How these days grow long

I think it is a love song between two people with a great distance between them. But for me, this song reminded me of my brother, Todd, who died in 2008. And I know it talks about kissing but whatever, I will love my brother til my dying day and somehow that distance must grow shorter so we can be together in the end. The concert was before the release of her latest album, Give up the Ghost, but that is where you will find the song.

After the show, Brandi met with her fans outside the tour bus. I told her that I cried and I shared with her about my brother dying and showed her his picture inside my locket.

She was so sincere and sweet.

I’ll never forget how approachable she was and open to talking to her many, many fans. That night I fell in love with her song.


Rockin’ it Rihanna-style

I was never a big Rihanna fan. Umbrella came and went. Her futuristic Bladerunner-esque get-ups were interesting enough but nothing that led me to listen any closer.

But then she hit the tabloids. Or rather her dumb, yet equally famous, b-friend Chris Brown hit her and they both were splashed all over glossy covered rags littered across grocery store counters. A big, muddied purple bruise across one eye and photo after photo of her hiding behind big sunglasses or her hand.

She didn’t talk much about the abuse. Retreated. And over the last couple of months as I have tried and tried to get away from a different kind of abuser I have come to see her in a new light. Walking away is hard but keeping your head up is harder.

In a New York Times piece she said talking about it was not what they did in her native home Barbados. No, abuse is a family matter. And yet, whether she wanted to or not she has become the poster girl for domestic violence. Beautiful, smart, successful, strong – if she could fall victim to abuse, it could happen to anyone, right?

She told Diane Sawyer she didn’t want to talk about it because she was embarrassed – embarrassed to have loved so much, so completely that she went back to Brown despite the abuse. I know what she feels. I am ambarrassed and ashamed too. I went back over and over again. My friends thought I was crazy, and each time I tried to take responsibility for my actions, I tried to make excuses for him. I tried to change to be what he said he needed. I tried to change him. I tried to explain away his hurtful words. There are some things you cannot take back, and words came be sharp.

My ex would say that I duped him, that I was the liar in our relationship. Yet he calls and harasses, emails and manipulates, lies and tricks me to get access. In the past two months I have changed my cell phone number twice. I have disconnected my home phone. I have used the strictest privacy settings on all my social networking pages, blocked him from sending me emails, changed my passwords to accounts two and three times. And still I get hangup calls at work, email messages to my work account. He fluctuates between hate and love, name-calling and wishful, wistful efforts at reconciliation.

Rihanna is right. She told Diane Sawyer that essentially she had to set her love aside, stand back and from a third party perspective examine her situation. And then, and only then, could she see she had to walk away. I applaud her for talking now. I am grateful to know that there are many strong women who have endured possessive, obsessive, controlling men – and survived. Somehow they find the strength within themselves and the support from family and friends to take back control, walk away and hold their heads up high.  So, Umbrella is in my top three playlist right now and I am ready to check our her new album, Rated R which came on Tuesday. It’s getting good reviews — and she said she rejected eight love songs. There’s no crying or whimpering, just strength, endurance and a little tougher edge.


Something in the air

Melancholy. It’s the best way to describe the way I feel. It’s as if the blues rode in on the soft breeze of fall. Crisp mornings snuck in to replace muggy summer days. The rain fuels my lawn into overdrive. And while it can sometimes seem like spring with the fresh blooms of autumn, there isn’t that new life or rebirth hanging in the air.

Melancholy.  I want to wrap up in a warm quilt, sip coffee and read books curled up in the embrace of my couch. I want to drown out the thoughts that seem to never shut up in my head. It’s October. I need to get the Halloween decorations out. Dia de los Muertos is right around the corner and I should find the box with my offrende items stored inside. My bride and photos of loved ones gone. My sugar skulls and the papel picado carefully folded and preserved for the second year of Todd’s absence.

My mind skips around. I wonder if the masks are in the decorations box. I’m going to need one of those for the Bling Bling Fling! this weekend. I miss Todd. Should I take my lunch to the cemetary and sit in the sun with him? He crossed my mind often and usually I can fight back the tears but today they roll down my cheeks and land on my chest with a splat. Sometime I think a cry should be cleansing but lately, there seems to be no release. So relief. The tears just keep coming. So I try to occupy my mind with other things.

I need new blinds and to wash the curtains. Did my mom really volunteer me to host Thanksgiving? Was she serious? Money, always worried about money? The dust bunnies in the corners of my house hop from room to room, from the dining room to the laundry room, hovering around the television. The roll toward the door as if to greet me. I need help moving the china cabinet into place and putting the book shelf in my guest room. Who can I get to help with that?

Saddness. Did my saddness blow in with the wind, or was it there all along?The harsh yellow lights of the office do nothing to force my focus on work. Instead I think about Halloween, and the party at Jamie’s two years ago. Todd came dressed as a Girl Scout. Tiffany came as a beer girl — all boobs. What I wouldn’t give for one more beer with Todd. One more hug. Just one more minute.  

I’ll be counting down until the wind shifts again. Spring should bring new life and growth. Hopefully it will sweep away my grief like the brittle leaves if fall.