Wherever I travel, my eye automatically lights on the architecture of the place and my heart to watching the people who move within those spaces.
In the city of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, there is a church that seems to almost glow with the reverence of the faithful that cross it’s marbled floors.
Our Lady of Guadalupe stands proud and comforting among the poor that hawk their wares outside, selling everything from handmade dolls to a ride in a handsome carriage.
The church, itself, is relatively modern, having been built in 1903 on the grounds of an older, and much smaller chapel. The parishioners of ‘The Bay’ grew in such numbers and with such sacrifice that Rome funded the construction.
It’s central spire is topped with a replica of the wedding crown worn by Empress Carlota, wife of Emperor Maximilian, ruler of Mexico (vis-sa-vis Austria).
Why? I don’t know. Especially since the royal couple were not favorites among the native people or the Spanish ruling class (the very Catholic people of Mexico found them suspect because of their lack of offspring, calling him impotent and her barren when, in fact, he sired a son with a native Indian mistress, and Carlota had a son by way of an Imperial officer, who would grow up and surrender the French Army to Hitler).
In fact, they were politically and literally abandoned during a power play between liberals (Maximilian) and conservatives ( Benito Juarez). Max was eventually executed and Carlota died crazy in a castle in Belgium.
As for Our Lady, her Mexican story begins in 1531, when she appeared to peasant Juan Diego, telling him to solicit the Bishop of Mexico to build a church in Guadalupe and call her the Lady of Guadalupe (not the Virgin Mary because she loved the Mexican people most), but not before he was instructed to pick roses for her (in December), which he found on a hilltop, and carried in his cloak to his local church where he laid them at the alter and lo-and-behold the interior of the cloth had a darker Indian Virgin Mary imprinted on it- gold leafed, with the blue-green mantle of the mythological Aztec twin Gods Ometecuhtli & Omecihuatl, and rays of light in the decorative form of Aloe spines!
So what’s the take-away?
Churches are beautiful. People are flawed…
and the Holy Mother must really likes Tacos.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
|The replica of the wedding Crown
worn by crazy
|Just another day at the Alter
shrouded in the pink that
The Lady appeared in.
|One of the faithful
reciting the rosary as she moves to the alter on her knees.
|The ‘Original’ cloak-
now found in Mexico City
The following story is true. WARNING: Do not try this at home. Disclaimer: No animals were hurt in the process, at least not many…
It all began with a 6am flight to the netherlands of NE Ohio, to join the family for Thanksgiving and to assist in my mother’s move from a hospital to a skilled nursing facility.
The morning was clear and cool. Everything looked good from 30,000 feet. No one was hacking up a lung in the seat next to me.
10am. Touch down. Ladies room. Reapply lipstick. Find a unsweetened iced tea. Check messages. Find the escalator. There’s the baggage carousel, and … no luggage to be found. It seems my bag had an appointment in Washington D.C. , and then decided a Philly Steak was in order in the City of Brotherly Love.
Of course it did.
Tickets. Stickers. Addresses. Delivery scheduled. Fine. Just get it to me.
Off I go through the big doors into the car of my fav brother-n-law, waiting for me with a bag of tacos and a Margarita (salted rim- he knows me so well). Iced tea thrown out the window. Who wouldn’t?
“This is Cheryl.”
“Cheryl. This is Carol. Your mother’s neighbor.”
“Yes Carol. How may I help you?”
“The fire department is breaking down your mother’s door!”
“They’re breaking her door down. The police and an ambulance are here too!”
Big breath…. “Why?”
“Is she there? They say a lady called…”
“She is in a hospital, Carol. She is NOT THERE.” Thank God for the Margarita.
“They’ve done a lot of damage. The door is on the ground and the drywall is all torn-up.”
Of course it is.
Ted and I continue on our way with me releasing a myriad of words my mother told me to never use, and…
We are RUN OFF THE ROAD by two large sixteen wheelers, up over the concrete curb, onto a snowy wet patch of grass stopping 15 yards short of a 30ft steel highway sign which says:
“Welcome To Cleveland”.
Up and over. Back on the highway we continue in silence and arrive to find police tape covering what was once my mother’s front portal.
Yellow is not my color.
(Turns out my mother, somehow, got ahold of her cell phone in her hospital room and called 911, whispered a few desperate words and dropped the phone. The 911 system has her cell attached to her village emergency system, and so with a flip of the switch and a little reverse look-up, they ascertained that the call was coming from her residence, and so… Houston. We have a problem. You just can’t make this shizz up folks).
Where do I find a handy-man two days before Thanksgiving in a city that I don’t live in.
Never mind. I did. And, after securing the door with a piece of wood and a serious kick of my foot, I felt safe for the night.
The door was repaired the next morning for a Holiday price.
Of course it was.
This very same- next- day, I was to expect a childhood friend and the rest of my family- all in to see Mom and to stay a day more to have some kind of Thanksgiving meal that would be mechanized, on a tray, the consistency of mush, surrounded by people being fed, and dashed hopes of recovery.
The night before this splendid meal was to be shared, my girlfriend and I sat around talking blah-blah-blah, and then went to sleep assisted by a half dose of Ambien.
Ring- aling- aling it is 4:38 in the fucking am.
I think I said,”Hello?”. Who can tell?
“I’m in jail. I need you to come get me”, said a very important person.
taking it in…
“What jail? Who is this?”
Deep breath… letting it register… making sure I’m not dreaming, God Damn Ambien, and…
“Okay. Give me 20 minutes.”
“Drive safe, Cheryl. It’s a blizzard out there.”
Of course. It is.
Grabbing the purse, finding the bra, making sure I have the cash, getting the keys to the car (which has bald tires because otherwise the Universe would be balanced and my mother would be on top of her auto care), quietly sneaking out of the house so as to not disturb the guest…
I’m on the road.
Pulling up. Walking in. Paying the bail. Throwing a look… and I have the important person back to where they are supposed are staying.
“We’ll talk tomorrow.”
You bet we will.
And back to my Mom’s house, 2 hours sleep, it is 8:30 am: “Happy Thanksgiving! It’s a day to rejoice!”, says the friend.
That is most likely not true, but we all continue on our schedules to consume the fowl and contact lawyers (Thank God we have several in many states)… and I get an appointment scheduled for the next day. When my village lawyer gets back from killing ducks.
Of course he is.
In the conference. Blah-blah-blahhhhh…. and I get a call from a beloved nephew (who lives in this town) and whom is in distress over a cat that is dying in front of his eyes.
“Aunt Cheryl. I need your advise.”
And I’m listening… “Give me 20 minutes. I’m right around the corner.” (This seems to be the tag-line of the week).
“Be careful. The roads are awful.”
Of course they are.
And so, there I am, with a distraught human and a cat in renal failure.
I call my Vet friend, for a confirmation of my diagnosis. She asks for the signs. I tell her what I see in the ears, the mouth, the eyes. She confirms, and… my nephew and I have the cat put to rest. Together. Holding each other. He expressing sorrow. I expressing more of a ‘What The Fuck Is Going On Around Here?’ kind of emoting.
So… mother moved, lawyers hired, cat buried, turkey eaten, luggage delivered, door repaired, flight connections made, and…
I am back. Back home in New Orleans.
Unpacking… and packing, AGAIN, for our annual Holiday vacation in Mexico. Leaving this week. Leaving in 2 days.
Of course I am.
I’m a glutton not only for turkey, but punishment.
See you all around December 16
Real Life can be just so… in your face… that I want to slap the bitch.
“Stand down you hellish beast”, I call from the high air of my parapet walk.
“Do not venture forth or I will send my slayers to the field of battle to slay your slayers”. (I’m a poet Queen).
At this point I am opening my ermine cape so that it catches the wind and rises high around me so as to create a dramatic moment. I am also hoping that it doesn’t come down around my face because that would just look stupid.
Thank God. It’s working. The breeze is in my favor this morn.
“Hedrick! Gather my men! Arm them with sharp knives and hot coal. Place on their heads the Tall Hat and wrap their bodies with linen of olde. What? I don’t want to hear a God damn thing about the laundress and the futility of next day service. Get it done man!”
“Genevieve! For the love of God, where is that wench? Shit! You fool. Don’t startle me like that! Gather ye court and take shelter in the Royal Cellars and do not, I repeat DO NOT let me hear a cork vent a barrelet- until I alight, of course”.
“Jester! You fool! This is no time for levity! Go seek the fishmonger and the butcher and the pastry maker. Have them stock my pantries with their wares. Tell them they will be highly compensated, that my advisers will dine at sunset, and that my subjects can eat cake. Not one word about my sorry ass cousin-Queen of France. Cake means ‘leftovers”. (Jesus, does no one research historical fact anymore?)
“Bidwell! Accompany me from the turret to the yawn across the palisade. Have the footmen barricade the drawbridge and draw the footbridge. Yes, we do have many bridges, you sot… Forget it. I’ll do it myself.” (Jesus, it’s hard to get good help these days).
“Valet! Take my steads and render them with caution. I will expect no damage and all my finery still present upon my return”.
My skirts sound so good. I really must remember to thank my dressmaker after the battle.
Welcome Your Majesty. It is our pleasure.
“Of course it is. And have me not disturbed until the battle is won…
“Or they get hungry”.
Welcome Her Majesty. It is our pleasure. Of course it is.
First Course: Stone Crab & Caviar served with MV Charles de Cazanove RM Brut, from Reims, Champagne, France.
Second Course: Lobster Bisque served with MV Henri Giraud Fut de Chene Brut from Ay Grand, Cru, Champagne, France…. I have people there.
Third Course: Oyster Carbonara served with 2010 Maison Champy les Combottes from Pernand-Vergelesses, Burgundy, France.
A le Coup de Milieu or a palate cleanser for you peasants. In this case a Crescent City Cooler of Guava rum, Angostura bitters, ginger ale & lime juice. Delightful Barkeep. Just delightful.
Fourth Course: Pan Roasted Skate fish wing (cousin of sting rays) served with 2012 Domaine Gauby les Calcinaires from Cotes Catalanes, Southern France.
Fifth Course: Tournedo of beef and Chanterelle Mushrooms, served with 2012 Caymus, 40th Anniversary, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Vally, California
There comes a time in every life when cold steely eyes, at the end of a tunnel you never thought you’d have to walk through, are winking at you, and you’re speechless- unless you’re like me, then you write a blog post, because you can, because you need to.
I mentioned, only briefly, and without fanfare, that I would be MIA for awhile.
I am back- at least temporarily.
My mother has experienced a medical emergency, one that was not unexpected, and yet, it always is- unexpected, and as I sat with her and looked deeply into her big brown eyes, I saw what she was seeing- those damn winking Reaper slits, taunting her to come hither, to give-up, to enter the darkness, and I begged her to turn around, to slap that bitch in the face, to muster her natural born stubborn soul and fight back, because we still desire her company, and her wisdom, and there are new babies still to come, and who will I complain to when the world pisses me off and I need her to tell me to ‘take a deep breath’ and ‘it will all work out’.
But, there she lays, frightened and confused, unable to control her environment, her body, unable to string more then a few words together in a whisper, unable to be young again.
However, she has strong moments, I’m told.
I’m ‘told’ because I’m not there. I’m the daughter whose life has abandoned her mother to distance and marital obligations, living far far away and only able to participate through technology.
I fear that this will be my legacy to her; the daughter who wasn’t there, and I’ll have live with that because she won’t be there to tell me ‘it will all work out’, but I know in my heart, a heart that she seeded with love and watered with reason and cultivated when I was too stupid to see the weeds for myself, that she loves me still. That she loves me always.
Without the roadmap of her lifetime of challenges, through the thick and thin of disappointing marriages, the loss of her one true love, the true grit of working every damn day of her life- she remained a steady float in a rocky sea.
The term ‘Roll Model’ doesn’t even begin to define her.
And so it is that I find myself considering the journey of Life, the passing of time…
and the solitary ache of inconvenient truths.
You gave me the keys to the Kingdom my Queen.
Thank you- forever.
My Mother. My Queen.
Yes, it’s THAT time of year again: The Season of the Witch, All Hallow’s Eve, Trick or Treat, the Night of Mischief and, most definitely (my eyes are bleeding), really age-inappropriate costumes.
You know it’s true. You’ve worn them.
Every damn year you consider if you can pull-off that Wonder Woman costume just one more time. Or God forbid, you’re married to someone who insists on exercising his inner cowboy, complete with chew and spurs, except his belly is rolling over the belt buckle and he wants you to dress as Pocahontas but with a push-up bra and fish-net stockings.
So, in the hopes that you will have the foresight and good taste to not embarrass your family any more than you normally do, let me suggest a few guidelines for choosing that one perfect costume that represents your inner ‘freak’.
Wear comfortable shoes. I know this sounds dull, but unless your going to sit in a chair all night and swing your delicate ankles to and fro, or you’re looking to get laid and insist on the ‘fuck-me’ stiletto-on-high, wear something on the dogs that can carry you without real blood seeping from the toes, or the inevitable ‘trip’ as you make your entrance, which just defeats the whole purpose don’t ya think?
Wear undergarments…. under. That’s where they’re meant to be. You are NOT Madonna. SHE isn’t even Madonna anymore.
Practice wearing your costume. Trust me. Reach for something. Bend down. Sit. Walk up stairs. Sip a drink. Eat from a fork. Get it properly fastened for God’s sake. I’ve seen all of these simple tasks in EPIC FAILURE mode. Sorta like; rip, shred, oops, aaaahhhh, gurglegurgle, shit, I’ve broken something…. kind of failures. They are amusing, I’ll give you that, but I doubt you want to be on the receiving end of everyone else’s ‘Night To Remember’… or maybe you do?
Garter Belts. All I can say is that if you are of a ‘certain’ age, and you actually REMEMBER garter belts, and trying to keep your skirt down all day long as you navigated your way to the girls room for a change of you-know-what, they just look trashy. They really do. Would you want a male to wear a jock strap where the sun CAN shine? I thought so.
If your costume is accompanied with accoutrement ( think: whip, parrot, roller skates, a pyramid) make sure you know how to use them, drink with them, fit in a cab, or through the door- which is probably where you’re going to be directed if you take up too much space, or catch on fire. How did Cleopatra do it, I’ve always wondered?
Consider the weather. Hot. Humid. Cool. Windy. Nothing is more uncomfortable than pitting-out your Marie Antoinette gown, feeling your face melt off, not being able to fully share your I Dream Of Jeannie muffin-top under a coat, or having the torch on your Statue Of Liberty get-up bent over in surrender at a
$100 per plate Republican fund-raiser fancy Halloween party (just sayin’). It might even get you on the no-fly list.
False is Fine. Eyelashes, boobs, butterfly wings, wigs, blood, pretending your actually enjoying yourself. It’s one night for God’s sake. You can fake anything, am I right?
I have a sort of litmus test I put some decisions through: What would a 60 year old Sophia Loren do? She was beautiful. She aged well. She had class. She had a long-term successful marriage and two awesome children. I was not, nor have ever been, a Sophia Loren, but would I wear a French Maid’s costume? Sophia says ‘No’. I agree with Sophia.
I’m all about pushing ‘limits’. Yes. Push them. But don’t loose sight of the long-term repercussions. We are all grown woman for the love of God, And you know what a PUSH means. Be an ADULT. An ADULT.
And unless you look like Heidi Klum (after several children- God how I hate her) then stay away from the pussy.