Archive for the 37 Category

Oh, LA you are so freaking pretty when you are in bloom.

Posted in 37 on June 5, 2012 by ana

It’s nice to be home. To drive past purple Jacaranda trees. To sit with Stevie and glue place settings for her wedding. To smell the jasmine. To eat fish tacos and shrimp burritos as an almost full moon hangs over the Walgreen’s parking lot.  It’s good to love and be loved. To see familiar faces. To have breakfast with Millie. To buy coffee from a guy who says, “didn’t you move to Paris?” To make plans with my sister. To drive to lunch with my cousin listening to Benny Goodman. To see Leo. It was good seeing him. I think we are becoming friends.


Sunday Supper

Posted in 37 on May 14, 2012 by ana

(all photos by tears are salty)

Dear neighbor,

Posted in 37 on April 20, 2012 by ana

I see you decided to take advantage of the one sunny day we’ve had all week. You washed your underwear and hung it out to dry. You think two pairs is enough to last you through the week?


Dear Paris,

Posted in 37, paris with tags on March 28, 2012 by ana

When I see an angry little boy practically in tears, wearing a blazer and speaking a mile a minute, I think your children might just be the cutest in the whole wide world.

the healing powers of gin and a good haircut

Posted in 37 on December 16, 2011 by ana

For the first time in weeks I slept a solid eight hours. For a while now I have been waking up in the middle of the night and wrestling with myself to go back to sleep and to stop thinking. Steves said it’s anxiety. The chinese doctor said it’s my thyroid. My cousin thinks it’s the flu. And sometimes I think it’s just bad allergies and a particular bad period. I am exhausted. I feel like shit. But this morning I woke up and felt like me. Tired but at least me and not some crazed version that is half zombie half maniac.

Yesterday, I worked 14 hours. I baked with Kat, who is going to take over my job when I leave. We listened to Beirut and baked and baked and baked. Somewhere between the 70th egg cracked  and the first few tables I waited on I had this realization about all that I have been struggling with. It just hit me- it is as simple as loving yourself, being kind to yourself, trusting yourself. That’s it. Nothing matters except not being reckless with yourself, with others, and the planet. That’s it. Everything else if you show up will take care of itself.

Of course two minutes later my mind started to come up with reasons why I shouldn’t feel that way. You are not that good a writer and your grammar sucks. You always say you want to loose weight and you don’t. Now you are baking, what about all the other things you were into before. You will never amount to anything. And on and on and on. I tried to stop it, to argue with that voice, but it just became a battle of the wills. Maybe, maybe, this why I’m exhausted.

After work I met Marcel for a drink at the Dresden. One dirty Hendricks martini. It was delicious. I could have had another but I would have never made it home. Marcel always makes me laugh. He is all love and nonsense and very straightforward. He just looked at me and said, “stop looking for problems where there aren’t any.” And he was right.

I fell asleep in a mini gin haze and woke up happy. I am moving to Paris. I have a great haircut, perhaps the best I’ve ever gotten in my 38 years. I have great friends. I make friends easily. I love to read. I love to bake. I love my clothes. I like to help when I can. I have a family that loves me. I sleep in a comfortable bed. I’m healthy. I’m curious. I love.

That voice, that voice that keeps telling me I’m not good enough, that voice that tries to sabotage me at every turn, is so pointless. What fucking waste of energy. I’m done. I’m not saying I won’t feel insecure ever again. I don’t know if I can really vanquish that voice. Maybe it will always be there and that’s fine. All I’m saying is, I see you but I’m just not paying attention to you anymore. Done.



this is what happens when I try to do too many things at once

Posted in 37 on November 20, 2011 by ana

Someone’s knocking at the door

Posted in 37, friends, joie de vie with tags , , , on October 14, 2011 by ana

My friend Alicia is, among many other things, a yoga teacher. Sunday, after a very boring french lesson, I went to her apartment for lunch. We sat at her little table and ate sausages, salad, heirloom tomatoes, and olives flanked to one side by a statue of Durga. Alicia was tired from a week filled with teaching and driving, and I was feeling kind of blue, the way I often do when I don’t sleep well or I’ve partied too much. I think we were both feeling a little guilt for different reasons.

Being in her company, in her space, eating yummy food was recalibrating. Sometimes you just need your friends to reassure you that everything is okay, even if deep down you know it. At overwhelming times a little validation can go a long way.

Over the years Alicia’s home has become part treasure chest and part library. Everywhere I looked my eyes would land on something interesting- mythology books, an old Judy Blume paperback, a shelf filled with all the markers, pencils and pens imaginable, a huge vision board, an old suitcase filled with papers, collections of her favorite authors, little notes left for herself as reminders of dreams, vintage toys…

For dessert there were blueberries, strawberry biscuits and tea. Alicia said, “I think I want to give you your birthday present.”  She handed me a shopping bag. “This is for when you feel lonely in Paris. Or in LA,” she added.  Inside was a collection of all my favorite eighties movies- Can’t Buy Me Love, Some Kind of Wonderful, Flash Gordon. Hands down one of the best, sweetest gifts anyone has given me. I felt so loved and known.

Saturday night I went to a dinner party at my friend Rami’s house, on the way there I kept thinking- this has been the best year of my life- hard but really great. When Stevie showed up a little later she said, “this has been the best year of your life SO FAR”

My birthday is around the corner.  Birthdays are my preferred New Year’s celebration, a time to lovingly recall all that has transpired and to think about what you hope to accomplish in the coming year. There are three or four big reasons why this has been the best year of my life. One was the break-up. It is almost a year since Leo and I split. I have always thought that to get yourself over a break up you need a year. You need to live all the seasons and major holidays you lived with that person without them. While it pains me to write that this amazing year came in part from loving and leaving someone who I will always love and who will always live in my heart that was the turning point, the empty handed leap, as they say. Sometimes it’s still hard to wrap my head around that one but there is strength in both knowing that I could have such a satisfying relationship, that I could love and be loved and feel the magic of being in love, and there is beyond strength in knowing that I chose me. That through life’s twists and turns, and the logistics of navigating a life shared with someone else there came a time where the only choice that was true to everything I believed was to walk away, and I did it no matter how much it hurt.

What followed was in many ways the main reason I have had such a successful and rotund year.  I have been fed and nurtured by an amazing, eclectic group of friends who have been my shelter, my cheerleaders, my sounding board, and my laughter. More than at any other moment in my life I have thanked my lucky stars for them.

Then there was therapy and my seven-month workshop, which was a journey in and of its self.  Much like with the break up, I grasp that something life changing has occurred. I feel internally that I am now completely different, yet the same. I am stronger, closer to who I have always thought I could be. I also sense I am too close to the events to truly grasp their magnitude in my narrative. I get that this year has been a game changer but to what extent remains to be seen.

And then there was Italy and all the mayhem that ensued from traveling with my mom, my brother and his brood, going to cooking school in Puglia for a week, having a lovely fling, and ending up in the emergency room with my mom after she broke her wrist. I came back from my trip to Italy inspired in a way I hadn’t been in a long time or perhaps had ever been. Certainly the accumulation of all that had happened in the year led me there. The commitment to write regularly either in this blog or for myself led me there.  But something was sparked that led me to fall in love with things I’ve always loved- food, photographs, words.

The last two months have been fraught with ups and downs mostly of my own doing. When I started my therapy workshop I knew that when the time came, after the workshop ended, I would know what to do next. I trusted that completely and in time the decision and opportunity to go to Paris appeared. Soon after I decided on Paris all these voices and doubts started to pop up. Part of me worried about what I would do in Paris, part of me worried about what I would do after Paris, and part of me wished I was there already. Then the other day it just hit me- you will know, when the time is right, you will know the next step. Just do your work and don’t worry about what will happen four steps ahead.

This has been a year of great lessons that I work hard at remembering. I can only live the moment that I have right now. I have no control over outcome. I must let life live me.  The only control I have is the choice to surrender and trust, and to be picky with what, who and how I fill my day. I think Anne Lamott said it best:

There is nothing you can buy, achieve, own, or rent that can fill up that hunger inside for a sense of fulfillment and wonder. But the good news is that creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.



Speaking of feet on the ground and flipping yourself upside down.

Posted in 37 with tags , , on September 21, 2011 by ana

Cleo was in town for work. We met for dinner and had a meal of grilled oysters, pickled vegetables, house-cured ham and a burger at my old co-workers very meaty and very popular restaurant, Salt’s Cure. After we went back to her hotel room, which was bigger than any apartment either one of us has ever lived in, and sat in the kitchen drinking wine, sharing a piece of chocolate cake, and talking about love.

While sorting through and old box of journals I’d found a letter an old boyfriend had written me fifteen years ago. It was heartfelt and seductive. Written in thin almost translucent paper, typed on a typewriter late at night, it reached out to me with risk and hope. I read it to Cleo. She asked me if I thought that was the kind of letter one only writes when one is young? “I don’t know,” I said, “but you are probably right.”

The last few days I’ve sat at Intelligentsia drinking coffee and writing in my journal. When I was younger, around the time of the boyfriend with the typewriter, I did that every day. Recently, I read some of those old journals. They were celebratory and restless, full of wonderment but also of frustration, of reaching for things and wanting them desperately to be a certain way. From reading my scribbles I can describe the entire decade of my twenties as plucky, hopeful, tentative, and full of doubt. Now I’m just grown up versions of those words.  Over and over I have been plagued by the idea that if I make a mistake I am bad person. That if I don’t get something right away it is worthless, I am worthless. In there lies the seed of my current fears.

Let me just write it one more time in hopes that it will somehow go away. I’m scared to move to Paris. (I am also terribly excited but somehow that is playing second fiddle these days.) It took me a really long time to get a sense of community in Los Angeles, much longer than in New York.  In one city you are moving in your little pod from point A to point B, in the other you are pressed up against strangers everywhere you go. I’m scared that I’m making a mistake by giving up what I have built here.

The other day I sat in my car thinking of something Nicki said.  “If you sit with the emptiness long enough you begin to see it really isn’t empty after all.”  Parked outside of work I tried to feel the emptiness. To get a sense of it without attaching any other emotion to it, without saying it is good or it is bad. What I found, after a while, was that I was hungry. It was something I had never felt before. While getting ready for service at the restaurant I thought, hunger is the proactive version of restless. It is a  compass that has lurked asleep in me somewhere. Hunger is why I have always taken a million classes and workshops. It is why I’m moving. It is why I asked my boss if I could learn to make desserts at the restaurant.

I have done so much work on myself. I just need to trust that everything is exactly as it needs to be. I have to let things happen. Feral attachment to one specific idea has never served me. In the past I have always said, this who I want to be as opposed to looking around me and seeing the beautiful tapestry of things that are already there. Everyday I remind myself to let go of attachment to outcome.

In my dance class all the other girls are fast-flying tinkerbells but somehow I can’t do any of the crazy tricks. The instructor said, “you are very grounded that is why you can’t take flight. It’s a very good thing to be grounded. Just think light.” The other day Stevie, who hates my pole dancing classes but gets why I love them said, “that is why you are still here. You have to flip yourself upside down.” I have always been afraid of handstands and cartwheels. I could never even let go enough to dive in to a pool. She is right. I need to turn things upside down and learn once and for all that my own strength will catch me.


kissing cousins

Posted in 37 with tags on September 12, 2011 by ana

The end of summer has often been a melancholic, unstrung time of year for me, specially if it has been a good summer, which means lots of pleasure, lots of adventure, and lots of laughter.  The sleepiness between summer and fall leaves me wanting to climb walls, wanting to paint the town red but my usual tricks- dancing, running, drinking wine with good friends have not quite been enough.

Seven years ago last Sunday Leo and I went on our first date. The next day, Labor Day, he called to see if I wanted to go with him to a bbq. From that moment on until last fall we were together. We always celebrated our anniversary on Labor Day, usually at Cafe Stella with a few friends. Cleo was often in town and it just made sense to turn the whole thing into a dinner party. We did that a lot- dinner parties, celebrations, after-parties in our little closet of an apartment after the Hollywood Bowl. We both really liked to entertain, to host, to pour wine for our favorite people and feed them.  I miss that.

All weekend long I felt lonely; the kind of lonely where you feel more alone when you are with people than by yourself. I cried on the phone with my mom. She said, “What you are feeling is loss.”

Maybe she’s right but it doesn’t feel intrinsically connected to heartache anymore, more like a bi-product, more like the I-thought-my-life-was-going-this-way-but-it-isn’t-anymore blues. Am I having yet another crisis of faith? I really don’t know what is going to happen in my life? Does anyone? Why can’t I just trust? Why am I paralyzed at the corner of uncertain and scared shitless instead of feeling exhilarated? A mild but constant anxiety buzzes through me no matter what I do. The more I try to live my life away from fantasy, the scarier it becomes. Fantasy has been my security blanket. It disguised itself as faith and hope and always let me down. I need to believe in myself with my feet on the ground.

I went to therapy, again. I have seen Nicki four times in the last three weeks. That is a lot for me. I used to go about once a month. Towards the end of our session she said, ” you need to live each day to it’s fullest. Find the beauty in everyday. Love yourself. You have everything you need.”

Stevie said something similar last week. “Time to let go of the training wheels.”

I know this but I’m scared. The fear is keeping me from feeling excited. I know the two are kissing cousins. I just have to figure out how to flip them.

The fact that I’m scared shitless is exactly why I have to do it.

Posted in 37 with tags , , , , on August 30, 2011 by ana

Last night I had an anxiety-ridden dream or maybe I woke up in the middle of the night had a mini panic attack and fell promptly back to sleep. Either way at some point in the middle of the night, awake or not, I freaked out. It was really strange. I can’t say anything like that has ever happened to me before. Basically, I started thinking about Paris- how I only know 2.5 people there, how I don’t really speak the language, how it’s going to be winter when I get there. And that turned into- you are insane. You have completely lost it. This is all going to explode in your face and you are going to feel more lost, more alone, more distraught than ever. Are you crazy? What are you thinking?!! I don’t ever talk to myself that way. The decision is pushing buttons and stirring things up.

Some of the fear comes from the voices in my head that say you are too old to be picking up your things and moving, your time to have babies is running out, you are always chasing something, settle down. Those voices are cultural and relate to my family as an entity, how I was raised, and what is expected or hoped for for me. These voices are not so much my parents but my large, opinionated, loving, and conservative puertorican family.

There is also the voice that wishes she lived closer to her family and worries that every decision I’ve made since I left Puerto Rico has physically moved me further away from them. And the voice that wants to settle down, on her own terms, but settle down no less. That voice wonders if I’m walking towards or further away from all I want.

All those voices make the voice that made the decision to take a leap feel small. That voice was strong and clear when I made my decision but all the doubting ones have made it cower. It’s as if the woman I have become, who is confident and centered, passion-filled and inspired, excited and present is having a fist fight with the girl that often feels awkward in her skin, who feels nothing quite works out her way. The part of me that knows that she can do this, that knows she must do it, has gone to take a nap until the confident one has put the awkward one in her place. And it might take a minute because the girl has been around for a long time but the woman has only been around for a bit.

This morning I cried while I was meditating. Lately that seems to happen when I try to meditate. I say try because I struggle every single day when I sit down to do it. Today I asked myself why I was crying. What the deep sadness inside of me was about. And the response I got was the feeling of how intensely the breakup with Leo had rocked me to my core. That feeling brought on more tears but also a feeling of pride and of strength and a deepening of the knowledge that the person I have become was born out of our parting ways.