Thursday, July 15, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
First, a little background:
This all occurred during my trip to Mexico City. I had been working in Mexico and during a vacation, a group of co-workers and I decided to see the sights. We had friends, also co-workers, who lived in DF (Distrito Federal) who were willing to put us up during the week vacation. This was the same vacation where I saw some crazy zoo critters. The night previous to this adventure, we had gone out partying. Hard. I may post about that some day.
It's an early rise when you're going to Indian Igloo, as it's called where I was. An early rise that smelled like I jumped in a bottle of vodka and felt like a jackhammer in my head. Nonetheless, I donned my sunglasses and went along for the ride as a good guest would.
Upon arrival, I am left in the sitting area while the friend that I stayed with and his mother went somewhere. I had no idea where at the time as I was concentrating on not sharing all of last night's alcohol with them. A lady came to me with a glass of some sort of fluid and told me that I had to drink it all. It looked like OJ so I was quite content to chug it down. Unfortunately, it wasn't just OJ. It had kind of a funny taste to it that I couldn't place. Considerably after the fact, I found out that my OJ had been spiked with garlic. The funny thing is that it didn't taste that bad, or at least not bad enough that I wouldn't drink it. After a while, my friend showed up and showed me a room to go into to change into my bathing suit. Traditionally, you would go into the Igloo naked, but I'm not tight with them like that.
So now I'm all changed and ready to go. A small ceremony is performed outside the Igloo before we go in. We enter one at a time and get situated on the floor. It is hotter than the seventh level of hell in this little place and it doesn't help that it's pitch black inside and there are about 3 or 4 other people in there with us. My friend makes sure I'm all situated and then we lay. Quietly.
Some folks believe that if you clear your mind and allow it to come, in the Igloo, you will see your spirit guide. Having some Native American blood running through me, I was open to this idea. Other folks might say that they make it so hot in there that you hallucinate, which might not be that far off either.
I believe that my body pushed out all of the previous evening's vodka and I got everyone in the Igloo drunk but I like to belive crazy things. After a while, a tin of water was passed around for us to have a little sip. Shortly after that, a piece of cloth was passed around. I'm not sure what was on it, but I was told to rub it all over myself. I obliged since I figured it couldn't be anything that would hurt me since I'm not allergic to much of anything.
More time passed by and just as I was able to ignore the heat and sweat enough to think that I might reach spiritual enlightenment, my friend tells me that I have to leave the Igloo. I don't know why I have to leave, but rather than disturb everyone else, I just head towards the door best I can. Outside, the lady who gave me juice is waiting for me. The change of light and temperature momentarily stunned me and I allowed myself to be led to a chair. Subconsciously I may have wondered why there was an outside chair inside but my main concern was sitting down before I passed out. I sat quietly, inspecting myself, wondering what the heck was all over me, when I realized that it was a kind of muddy clay that must have been on the cloth from earlier.
What happened next was inexplicable. The juice lady returned rather stealthily and without warning, proceeded to throw a rather large bucket of ice cold water on me. I'm pretty sure I screamed right before my heart stopped. I don't know if you've ever had your body temperature raised to about 1000 degrees and then dropped to just under 30 degrees, but it isn't pleasant. She didn't speak English and my Spanish is poor at best so she just stood there and smiled at me like this was a normal procedure. I think it was after the stupified glazed look left my face, she felt it safe to usher me back into the Igloo.
I would imagine that we sat in the Igloo for about another half an hour before a mutual decision to leave. At that point, I was escorted into a place where I could shower. I received soap and a towel and instructions to clean up and then go into the room across the hall to relax but don't dress. I was getting a massage. Awesome!
When your body is that hot, your muscles loosen up which makes the massage 800 times better. I passed out. It was wonderful. After I was all clean and relaxed, there was another bonus: lunch! You'll have to understand that I loves me some Mexican cuisine. To this day, I don't know what we had, but I do know that it was delicious.
We all (my friend, his mom, and the other folks that were in the Igloo) sat down at the table to eat. There was a lot of chatter at the table, but I wasn't really listening as I was still in my massaged state. Slowly but surely, that jackhammer fired up again. As I tried to focus on making it go away and enjoying the scrumptiousness in front of me, my friend told me that the woman in charge wanted to know if I still had a headache. Now, I know that I probably looked a little rough when we came in, but I never mentioned, not even to him, that I had a headache. Naturally, I asked if he told her that and he said that he didn't. So I asked how she knew. He said that she sees auras. Well, that's pretty damn cool if you ask me. I told him that yes, my head was still exploding.
Our hostess was kind enough to come over and provide me with additional massage at this point. I'm a sucker for it, so I wasn't going to complain. While this is happening, she's chatting with my friend. Again, I'm not really listening because it's in Spanish and it requires too much thinking for me to understand it. The next thing I know, she decided to crack my neck. Now, I DO NOT LIKE THIS. I don't like when the chiropractor does it and I certainly didn't appreciate it when she did it. The look on my face must have been classic because my friend immediately told me that he said to her that I would not like that. The best part is that there was so much tension or whatever built up in there, that when it did crack, it was so loud that all conversation at the table stopped. In retrospect, quite funny but then not so much. She tried to get the other side, but I was already on guard. She still managed to get me.
After all was said and done, we thanked our hostess and went back to the house. It was a tremendous experience and if you ever have the chance, I highly suggest it. :-)
I take an herbal supplement twice daily. I have a very difficult time taking pills, so it's an ordeal. I thought that this particular capsule had gone down rather easily. I chucked it back and drowned it in water and thought that everything was okay. I thought.
But then I burped, which, in and of itself isn't odd, but the cloud that came out of my mouth was very odd. I'm not talking about cartoon cloud of smelly burp, I'm talking literal cloud of dust came out. I thought that I was seeing things or going crazy. That may have been better. Somehow, the little guy that lives in my throat managed to get his grubby little hands on the capsule and he broke it open in my freaking throat.
There's a reason that stuff is in a capsule. It tastes TERRIBLE! Five glasses of water later, all was back to normal, but that incident surely did nothing but make my pill-taking issue even worse.
This is the story of my first time on stage in front of about 300 people.
When the concept of working at Club Med was first explained to me, I thought it to be interesting and fun, if not a little odd. I mean really, who pays you to do what you enjoy doing, learn to do new stuff, show off your new stuff on stage and to talk to random strangers who end up being your friend 6 days later? Well, Club Med does basically, or that was my understanding of it.
I like to dance. Mind you, I am a terrible dancer. An embarassment to anyone with rhythm actually. I can headbang with the best of them, although I'm getting off track. I have a tendency to be very active behind the bar (I think I left out the fact that I was a bartender), and therefore, I tend to be remembered if not noticed. Our choreographer, who came in for coffee every morning, was dying to get me in a show.
The problem was scheduling. You see, as a bartender, I was working during many of the rehearsal times and no rehearsal equals no show. Fortunately, in my first season working at CM, my co-workers in the bar really enjoyed drinking more than I did and were not the least bit interested in getting up early. Me, on the other hand, I would prefer to be up early and get my work done so that I can relax in the evenings. In the end, my boss gave in and let me take over all of the morning shifts so that I would have evenings free for rehearsals and shows.
These are not Broadway productions people. These were a bunch of folks whose talents lie elsewhere that were coerced into a show. A lot of rehearsals consisted of more yelling than dancing. I was behind in the learning curve since most people had already been doing rehearsals for a while before I got there, but I do learn quickly.
Here's the thing about CM: if you're asked to do something and you say yes, you'd better be ready to do it in a very short amount of time. I'm pretty sure I had about one week of practice before the choreographer decided that I was ready for the stage. How excited was I?!?! I told my co-workers and my boss about my pending big debut and all was happy across the land.
As the big night approached, I had no worries. How difficult could this be? That was not the correct attitude. I headed backstage before showtime and found my newly named cubby. It had my three costumes and my shoes. Whee!!! I made sure of the order of the show and pulled out my first costume and that's when it struck.
Possibly the worst case ever known to man. Okay, probably not, but my God, I couldn't even get my shoes on. Mimi, who had the cubby next to mine, noticed that I was a bit on the nervous side.
"Sunshine, how are you doing?"
"Well, I have all my costumes, I think I remember the steps."
"That's good. Oh wait, you have that on backwards."
"Ugh! This is terrible. I'm shaking like a leaf!"
"Oh, yes, this is your first show, right?"
"Sure is. I hope I don't screw up."
"Look, have you had a drink?"
Seriously, she asked me if I was drinking. I will not stand on a soap box and say I didn't consider it, but I decided against it being the noob.
"Well, girl, go get one! Geez, you work in the bar, you drink for free, and you're not having anything? Go get yourself a drink, and bring me one too."
I'm pretty sure that I looked at her as if she had 3 heads before she told me to get a move on. There was a corridor that connected backstage with the back area of the bar and I made good use of it. I went back, got us drinks, had a shot of Jaegermeister for good luck and then headed backstage again where Mimi and I toasted my first show.
Did you know that alcohol kills butterflies? No scientific study needed. Proof positive. I went out on stage and busted a choreographed move. Not only in the first number where you couldn't see any of our faces anyways, but in the second number and in the finale where I was in the front row!
As we changed back into our regular clothes after the show, I received congratulatory praises on my first performance. Even my boss pulled me to the side and said that I was right to fight for what I wanted to do. It was a great experience that lead to soooo many more nights on stage. After a couple years of performing, people started asking me if I'd had any experience on stage before because it always looked like I was having so much fun up there. A few people suggested that I should try a career in stage. HA! I laugh at them. I'm smiling and laughing because a)we do talk to each other up there even though you can't hear it in the audience and b) give me a shot of Jaeger and I'll smile at anything.
I've retired my stage shoes, they've been collecting dust for about 3 years now. That doesn't mean I don't get the urge to dance every now and again because I do. I just have to suppress these desires and be the mom/girlfriend/admin/web designer/soon-to-be business owner that we all know and love.
Oh, and the end is gross.
Way, way, way back in the day when I was about 8 (before
Sidebar: We were having watermelon. I think this story is the cause of my distaste for watermelon to this day.
We were, err, I was being silly, as an 8 year old child typically is. What made this day special was that my dad was being silly too. You just have to understand that he wasn't a silly guy. My mom had already gotten up from the table, and in a rare moment of solidarity, my brother, father and I refused to allow her to turn the channel. Why? Because midget wrestling was on, of course.
I'm not sure that you understand how funny midget wrestling is to an 8 year old, so I'll tell you.
We laughed. We laughed hard. My mother warned me to stop. I couldn't. It was midgets wrestling for pete's sake. My dad was egging us on. My mom said I was going to get sick. I didn't care. It was hilarious and my dad was on our side. Side-splitting laughter kept occurring. I'm pretty sure one wrestler went up to the top rope. Do you know how high that is? That was it. By far the funniest thing an 8 year old has seen. Another warning came from my mother. I should have listened.
The next minute is burned in my mind forever. I was laughing hysterically as I shoved watermelon down my throat and the inevitable happened. My stomach decided that I should either laugh or eat, but not both. My brain was laughing too loud to hear my stomach, just as I was laughing too loud to hear my mom. I would say that there was no warning, but I'm sure there was for my gut erupted and the watermelon returned to the table. I can't remember what I had for lunch yesterday but I remember that I had a paper plate sitting in a wicker plate holder.
After the initial shock that I had thrown up, to the disgust of my mother, we kept laughing. That was a great day in Burkes history.
Yesterday, I sat on the board, gazing out over the meadow where our trapeze stands. A gentle breeze rustles the palm fronds as the waves caress the sand where the ocean and beach meet. It's beautiful. A complete feeling of peace and calm has overtaken me. The world looks different from 24 feet in the air, you know?
A little girl runs by. I recognize her from earlier in the day. She was all nice and clean then. Now, she has paint all over her dress and her face as she proudly carries the vase she painted. It has one flower in it. Probably for her mom.
"Hi Allie," I yell down.
"Hi, Sunny," she replies, squinting into the sun to see me. "See my vase? It's for my mom!"
"It's beautiful," I tell her because it is. There's paint outside the lines and it looks like abstract art, but she's 8.
"Are you going to do a trick?" inquiring minds want to know.
"Not right now, kiddo, but if you come back tomorrow, I'll teach you a new one!"
"Cool!! I'll see you tomorrow."
I've been here a while. The people change but the routine stays the same. It's amazing how people are impressed with the way we are so "intuitive". When you see the same things day in and day out for months on end, you just know.
I really can't sit still for much longer. The sun is baking me an even more golden brown as it turns the ends of my locs the most wonderful copper color. I wish I could get it all that color, but the sun just doesn't work that fast. My mind starts racing with thoughts only found in the chalk and tape-encrusted back corners of the head of a circus GO.
It's just a quickie.
No one is here yet.
So what if someone sees you, you work here.
It isn't showing off.
You need the practice.
Stop being a wussy!
You see, I've been working my way up to this moment. I've got the static trapeze down pat. It doesn't move, hence the name, and the ease in which I picked it up. I'm a madwoman under the tent. Upside-down, right-side up, forwards, backwards, flip, spin, twist. No problem. It's only 6 feet off of the ground with a 18 inch crash mat underneath. It might hurt if I fall, but I won't get hurt.
Ever since the last mid-air collision, I've been hesitant to try again. Hesitation is not for circus GOs. We are the few, the proud, but not the Marines. People vacation here just to train with us. There's no time to be a baby. We are invincible.
It's getting late and the others will be here soon. It's now or never. They know that I've stepped it down a notch. They're disappointed and they try not to let it show, but I can see it. I've had that same look in my eye.
I know that it's time to (up)rise to the occasion. I stand and try to collect my thoughts. I walk(fly) through the trick in my mind. My hands are shaking and sweaty. As I reach into the chalk bag, I tell myself that I can do it. I didn't go through all of this waiting and torture to not be able to do this.
I can do it.
I can do it.
I can do it.
Swing the bar.
I can do it.
I can do it.
Grab the bar.
I can do it.
Cowboy the riser.
I can do it.
Nowhere else on earth does seven seconds take this long.
I drive my legs back in an effort to create velocity. Don't bend your knees. As I bring them forward and drive them up, I think about getting my feet into the clouds. Feet in front! Another drive backwards in the back end of my swing. I'm back near the board and closing in on the moment of truth.
I try my best to 'float' myself up onto the bar and while I make it, I don't float. I've always been a power flyer, but never a very graceful one. I have less than two seconds to make my move. It's go time.
I bend myself in half over the bar and I launch myself up and over in a little ball. I've surprised myself. I open from the ball, spot the net, and half-turn safely into it, landing on my back.
I truly am invincible! It's such a rush that I climb right up and do it again. I've become so engrossed in my flying that I don't even notice that people are watching. (And why should I care if they are? They get a show on Wednesday night anyways.) More importantly, I don't notice that my teammates have arrived. They sit quietly and watch me work out my issues. You might think they should offer up commentary, but they know what's best. I throw my forward over twice more before I get tired. The adrenaline rush is massive. I'm estatic. I'm throwing this in the show. I love my job.
PS. I know that most of you won't know what the heck this was about so there's a video. It isn't me but I can't post mine from work. I'll replace it later.
Update: Now it's me.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Many moons ago when I was about 8 or 9 I guess (I was a late bike learner), my cousin Gene used to come visit us for several weeks each summer. Gene was my hero. He lived in another state, he was older, he knew everything. I like to think that he deserves some credit for who I've become, but I digress.
Gene had a bicycle that I desparately wanted to ride, but I didn't know how. Let me mention that at this time, I can't be much more than 4 feet tall if that whereas Gene had to be over 5 feet by then. I didn't have my own bicycle to learn, and my parents weren't really interested in buying me one right away. And despite their disinterest, they forbade me from riding Gene's bike. In retrospect, a grand idea as the bike was way too big for me. Then, I just thought they were evil.
As young ones do when everyone is at work all day, I went behind their backs and asked Gene to teach me to ride a bicycle. Unaware of my not having permission, Gene proceeded to try to instruct me in the nuances of balancing and pedaling. We would start at the top of the yard and go to the bottom of the yard (it was a gentle slope). Oddly enough, the lessons didn't include how to stop and that, my friends, is a recipe for disaster.
Disaster had a new name, and it's name sounded a heck of a lot like mine. As I cruised through the yard, gaining momentum, I got away from Gene and I headed toward the street. I didn't know how to stop. I started to panic. I vaguely remember hearing him yell, but what was more important to me was the fact that I was heading straight for a car that was coming up the road.
Time really has a way of slowing down right before you crash your bicycle into a car. Fortunately, though, the car contained one of our neighbors, who had likely seen me riding against my parents' wishes earlier in the day and was able to stop before he crushed me and Gene's bike under his car. I got off lucky. A scrape on my elbow and no damage (major anyways) to Gene's bike. The neighbor went about his business like it didn't happen and never told my parents that I know of. I was quite the tomboy so any new scrapes that weren't bleeding profusely were no cause for alarm from my parents.
Gene and I came to a mutual agreement that I shouldn't ride his bike anymore. I did eventually get my own bike though, and I rode it everywhere. Except into the path of cars.
I have recently returned from a WONDERFUL, albeit minimally snowy vacation to Tennessee. Our group contained myself, an African American, my daughter, half AA, half German, my boyfriend, Cuban, our former roommate, half Cuban, half Mexican, and his girlfriend, Honduran. Why do I go through the ethnicities? Read on.
Please, put aside your preconcieved notions that all of our southern states are places only for WASPs, for that is not true. Even a small town like Gatlinburg, a resort town, found its fair share of culturally diverse crowds. We ran into many people who spoke Spanish, French, German, and even Russian (we think). There were even quite a few black folks out trying out this snowboarding sensation. (Keep at it! Don't leave me out there alone!)
All this and more I tell you only to relive the funniest thing I heard all week. It's funny in a sad sort of way, but I laughed as did all in my group when I relayed the story, which in turn, allows you to laugh too.
Skiing/snowboarding is quite the social sport. Either that, or I must have a sign on that only other people can see that says "I want you, a compete stranger, to tell me everything about yourself and ask you everything there is to know about me." Long sign, I know, but I must be wearing it. At any rate, I've been off riding by myself for a while as my daughter is in a lesson and my poor baby is home sick on the first day of our trip. I've made fast friends with 2 girls from TN that just love me for some reason (am I Token?), as well as several other kids. I guess it could be that I look younger than I am and act nowhere near my age, but I digress.
On one particular lift ride, I had the opportunity to ride up with a southern gentleman and his son. I can say southern with absolute certainty because not only did the accent give it away, but he flat out told me that he was from TN. The conversation started as most do on a lift ride. Hellos, weather, first time, etc. Something like this:
Him: How y'all doing today?
Me: (Wondering if I've multiplied) Fine thanks, you?
Him: We're doing great! Great day of skiing.
Mind you, his son says nothing this entire ride.
Me: Good to hear.
Him: So where ya from?
Me: (Because I've told this story many times today, and many times at Club Med) Pittsburgh originally, but now I live in Miami.
Him: Oh yeah? What do you do down there?
Me: I'm an Administrative Assistant.
Him: Oh? Where at?
I think that's one too many personal questions at this point, but....
Me: A property management company.
Him: You been down there long?
Me: (Is this ride over yet?!?!) About 3 years now.
And now, the moment you've been waiting for.....
Him: You gotta learn to speak mexican to live down there, huh?
Me: (Blank stare.) Guffaw!
First off, I didn't capitalize Mexican to accentuate the way in which it was said. If nothing else, I do know punctuation and capitalization (as I hit spell check). Secondly, the brunt of the Hispanic population in Miami proper is Cuban although we do boast a large Mexican population. Third, my newly made redneck friend, if you're going to be stereotypical, at least get it right, because learning to speak SPANISH goes a long way here.
He didn't say much after I giggled in his face and thankfully, the ride was over shortly thereafter. By the way, southern gentleman, where did you get that gaiter? It's such a lovely shade. Oh, wait, that's your neck.
South Beach and Miami in general has a ton of homeless people. Some of them are war vets, some drug addicts or alcoholics, and some are literally flat out crazy. I often wonder how one gets to this point and then I feel so blessed to not have gotten anywhere near that point. I don't typically give homeless folks money, simply because I know it isn't going to go to good use, but I never hesitate to buy anyone that's hungry some food, providing I have the capability.
(I know I jump around a lot and I'm working to make that better.)
A couple of days ago, when driving home from work, I broke my personal rule about not handing out money. On the corner of NW 12th and the off ramp, there's a traffic light. And with that traffic light, comes a variety of homeless men (and on occasion a woman) with their signs asking for money. Typically, I keep my windows up on that corner, because, let's face it, I'm not a big girl and someone who's strung out has the capability to possess super-human strength. This day, I had my window open and some cash on me (which I also don't usually do since I have a tendency to lose money) and there was a gentleman coming towards my car. His sign wasn't anything out of the ordinary: Homeless, hungry, veteran, please help. But what got me is "Freedom isn't free". With so much going on in the world, that really struck me. That's not what got me reaching in my purse though.
Quite often, I see homeless people that I just don't believe are homeless. I think they're scam artists. I don't say that to be mean and I understand that there are shelters where people can get clean and get clean clothes, but sometimes, they're just dressed a little too well with sneakers that are too nice. Not this man though. He wasn't overly dirty or overly clean, but he was genuine, that much I felt. He also had his veteran badge on from the VA hospital and it had his picture, so I know at least that part was the real deal.
As he came by the car, he almost didn't make eye contact with me, as if he was thinking that I was just another young person that didn't care, but I surprised him. I got him over to the car and gave him a 5, it was all I had, but more importantly, I thanked him for serving our country. I think he wanted to hug me, not for the money, but for the thanks, and if it were in a different situation, maybe I would have, but the light turned, and it's Miami, and if you don't move your car within a half second of the light turning, you might get killed.
I kept on with my drive home and I felt good. Good that my little bit might help, good that my words were probably more valuable to that man than my money, and good that my little part of the world is safe and sound with a roof over my head, food in the fridge, and love in my heart.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Coming up in SW PA, you better know football. I've got that covered. You should probably know hockey. Got that covered. And you should at least be familiar with baseball. Got it. Also coming up in SW PA, it's most likely that you've been to many baseball games, possibly a hockey game, and if you're lucky (or know someone), you may have been to a football game or two.
We went to a LOT of baseball games. Most years on the fourth of July with some other random games sprinkled in between. We always sat in the peanut (or nosebleed) section and it was always a great time. We even got a ball once. A lot of good family memories revolve around baseball, but I digress.
I learned to love the game. And as I grew older, the players became more than "the guy on that base", more than "the third baseman", they started to be come Andy, Bobby, and Barry. They were real people, not just guys you see on TV. People like us. But maybe that's just a Pittsburgh thing.
In the early 90s, sitting around the house with my dad watching the Buccos, I came to have this tremendous crush on Kevin Young. One night while we were watching a game and Kevin made one of his (if not they should be) trademark split stretches to make a play. I'm still jealous. I can't split like that. I looked over at my dad and said, "I'm gonna meet him one day." To which my dad mumbled something along the lines of "Uh huh, yeah right, okay, good luck."
Fast forward this story about 5 years. I'm still following the Pirates and now I'm managing a restaurant in the Pittsburgh area.
Mind you, this is a memory of approximately 15 years old, so I might not get every detail right. :-)
It was a Friday or Saturday early evening in the restaurant. I know this because it was a little busy but not overly yet and I had on a really cute outfit. I only pulled those out on weekends, lol. I must've been the bar manager that night. Otherwise I would've noticed before someone pointed out our guest. One of the waitstaff came to me and said, "Who's the guy at table 71?" I didn't know so, rather than do a walk-by, I went upstairs so I could take a look.
I looked over and immediately thought that he looked familiar but I just couldn't place him. I didn't think I had gotten to the point of staring, but apparently I did as our guest looked up at me and busted me. Were I the blushing sort, I would've been stop light red. Knowing I had to go speak but being extremely embarrassed, I put on my big girl shoes and went downstairs.
With all the courage I could muster, I walked up to the table and apologized for staring. And drooling. Mildly. Oh, yeah, and that hey you look familiar but I can't quite place you. He looked at me and asked me if he had to tell me. Yeah, that threw me off a bit from my usual snappy, smartass answers. I think I mumbled something about he didn't have to but I would appreciate it and I think I started to slink away when he said...
I'm Kevin Young.
15 years later, I'm still not sure what happened right after that. I'm hoping that I didn't make a big fool of myself. Pretty sure I didn't since Kevin came back to the restaurant and didn't make fun of me. At least not for that, lol. But the best part, was getting to go home to share this story with my dad. I don't know that he got to meet a lot of Pittsburgh athletes, but I got to bring him stories of my run-ins and I know he enjoyed them.