Pico de Orizaba

Pico de Orizaba
Taken from Huatusco, Veracruz, the closest town to Margarita's family's ranch.

Friday, June 17, 2011

"Let's Talk About Sex Ba-by. Let's Talk About You And Me. Let's...

... Talk about All the Good Things. And all the bad things that may be..."

That was a song Beth frequently sang at home in the early 90s.  I didn't like that music when she sang it.  But I like it now. Nor did I like Mariah Carey before meeting Joey.  One of the first records I bought in Freshman year at Somerville 1984 was The Talking Heads Stop Making Sense with the popular song "Burning Down the House".  I was horrified by their music and didn't listen to them again until the late 90s in Brooklyn.  And now they are one of my favorite groups...  I can go through a long list of former dislikes now likes because of someone I met.  When I talk about myself and my journey, I can't ignore the people with whom I was involved during the different stations of this journey.  Without them, I wouldn't have anything to talk about now.  I wouldn't be me as I appreciate myself.  It took a long time explaining this to Margarita.  After 8 years together, she accepts it when I tell her things like, "I was in contact with the younger sister of my first girlfriend Francesca."  However, I don't know how she would handle reading my memoirs if she read in English.  I guess I have a few years until I must truly address that concern.  The thing is that every person is special and specific to the situation.  I can't change the past just to protect the present.  Many experiences of the past are foundations for our present relationship...  Being "in-love" with someone 10 years ago does not mean being "in-love" with them in the present.  I put in-love in parenthesis because I believe it very important for us to understand the truth behind that idea.  Sometimes we must explore the past to understand really what was going on then...  For instance, was I "in-love" with Joey because my spirit was connected with hers to spin me into a whole new life?  Did I fall in-love with Randi because I would later live in New York City or because I finally would be accepted by my Jewish family?  Is truly being in-love your doing or is it something placed upon you, like an inspiration?

The day I bidded "fairwell" to my mother at her house in Flemington, NJ she said, "when you return, we have space for you here..." and I said, "If I return, I'll be returning with my Mexican wife." and she replied, "You? YES, Mexican wife? NO."

A year and a half later, after visiting us in Veracruz, my mother wrote me, "Ross, your life is better in Mexico with Margarita.  I don't believe it a good idea returning to the U.S. with Margarita..."  I really appreciated that commentary.
8.5 years later, when I mentioned that I need a U.S. address for the residency application for foreign relatives, my mother asked, "wouldn't you put my address?"  Seems real simple, no?  Smile for the photo.  Say cheese!  When Mexicans take photos, they say, Whisky.  Why whisky?  Who knows? Maybe it's because the photos are taken during brindis (a cheers... What do you call that?  I'm forgetting my English.)  Here in Veracruz they drink a form of whisky made from Sugar Cane called Aguardiente de Caña.  There are "moonshining" enterprises on the ranch.  If I want a good aguardiente... But I hardly drink.  Here you wouldn't say "Cheese"... Chis signifies Shit...  Of course I would love them to say "Chis"...

When I first met Randi at Hampshire College in 1992, I thought she was Puerto Rican. She had told me that she was from Astoria, Queens.  So, it was easy to come to that conclusion.  It was something about the shape of her face, forehead.  Little did I know that I would end up "dating" a Puerto Rican woman after breaking up with her. I bumped into Randi occasionally on campus.  But we only said, "hi" or "how are you?" and nothing more.  Later on I would learn that she paid much attention to me when I passed her "condo" during the last leg of my runs crossing campus.  She and her friend/roomate Kelly named me "running boy"...  I remember seeing Kelly on the 5 College Bus returning from Amherst and was wondering why she stared at me so much.  Now I knew...  Before the summer before my last year at Hampshire, I bumped into Randi sitting on the lawn between the library and her condo complex.  I sat down next to her and for some strange reason we had our first true conversation.  I asked her what she was going to do that summer and she said that she would be living on campus in the attempt towards finishing her Div III Thesis "Female Black War Workers During WWII"...  and I said that I would be working on campus that summer too.  So, I suggested we look for a condo together.  We needed another 2 people and that was it... I became obsessed with that day Randi would appear in the condo we would share.  I knew something was about happen.  I believe we can sense when we are about to start a new chapter of destiny. You may ask, "but isn't every day, every person we meet part of our destiny?"  
I believe there is a difference between a person who will not make a significant impact upon you and those who will truly help shape your life...  That's where there is little difference between good and bad.  Good and bad events are equal in that they shape you and your relationship with your life...  It's the shaping and the movement that is important.  The 9 million people who may pass you on the New York City streets or share a subway car with you have absolutely no significance in your life.  However the experience of mixing with them, experiencing them as a whole, absorbing their collective energy...; that has so much significance.

I never physically cheated on Randi.  But towards the end of our relationship I met a Jewish woman who was attracted to me while looking for non-profit jobs... I had this tendency of being attracted to that attraction... something connected with my lack of self confidence.  Just north of Greenwich Village there was a library-like office for researching non-profit employment and project funding.  I bumped into her a few times.  But nothing happened.   This was April-May 1997.  But it made me think...  Randi knew the relationship was coming to an end.  I believe she knew for a long time.  She just believed that I hadn't given it a chance.  We hadn't gone to couples therapy.  Her therapist insisted.  Randi insisted.  But, I just didn't see the use.  There was something else going on.  Something "incurable".  Randi knew that.  But she didn't want to accept it...  She misdirecting blame and mis-interpreting her sense of loss.  What Randi lost in me was her relationship with my mother and the other women of my family and their love for her.  The relationship and it's outcome was written years before we met.  

Randi was Jewish, but not the sister of Epstein, the Puerto Rican Jew on the 70s T.V. series Welcome Back Kotter.  As it turns out, she was my first Jewish girlfriend.  I was 25-years-old; Randi 23.  We spent all our spare time together that first summer.  During the day I painted the houses on campus...  It was very romantic.  For some reason, it took us at least two weeks to kiss for the first time; on the lawn near Amherst college during an outdoor film.  I don't remember what film it was.  I don't believe we watched much of it.  Two weeks of feeling so much tension.  When was the right moment?  There were so many opportunities.  So many walks below the stars, sitting on the side of a hill, walking through the woods, cooking together...  Our faces moving closer to each other and then, for some strange reason, moving away.  We walked hand in hand.  But we did not kiss... 

She wasn't successful at finishing her thesis that summer and began suffering horribly that fall. I, on the other hand, had entered into the extases of beginning my thesis, The Rise of Anti-Semitism in Boston During the Depression and W.W.II.  When she finished her thesis that December, she felt like a failure.  She had chosen a subject too difficult for an undergraduate; more suitable for a graduate student. But she didn't understand that.  Randi didn't giver herself a break and slipped into a depression.  She gained weight and felt worse the better I felt about myself and my thesis. I wanted to share with her my enthusiam, but it just made her feel worse.  It became a wedge between us, although we would be together another 2.5 years.  We had to make it into New York City.  I must return to my parents' and grandparents roots.  I must meet people from many other countries or people who had travelled around the world.  I had to meet Latinos and Mexicans.

I discovered that first summer that Randi and I shared three "coincidences" (later to share others):  The first one was that we had the same thesis committee in Aaron Berman and Penina Glazer.  The second being that both our theses investigated the period of W.W.II (we didn't share classes together, didn't share interests before we "hooked up" that summer.  I didn't know her academically...).  The third and most important coincidence was that she had attended the New Jersey YMHA-YWHA camps with my younger sister Beth (the same age group). They appear next to each other in a group photo. Yet they didn't know each other back then.  Randi from Astoria, Queens; Beth from Branchburg, deep central Jersey.  Later on would arise other "coincidences..."

Randi sat next to Beth at Camp Najewah in the Poconos not knowing that 12 years later she would meet and then lose Beth, one of her new sisters.  She would lose my mother who was much warmer and much more loving towards Randi than Randi's own mother...  Randi and my mother kept in contact for a few years after our break up.  When I was in Maimonides Hospital in 1998, Randi and my mother had lunch together before my mother visited me.  She even had Randi speak with me when she called me at the hospital once...  A year and a half after our break up, Randi invited my mother to her wedding.  My mother said she would love to attend, but that Beth's wedding was the same day as Randi's.  I believe that was the end of their relationship.  You can't wish for the mother of an ex-boyfriend when you are receiving the mother of your new spouse...  It was also a message that the relationship, the spiritual connection had come to a close, just as it had begun 16 years earlier...  

The paths converge, the paths diverge... tearing away something we once needed, leaving the painful sense of having lost something important. But it is just a space left vacant for being filled again at the following convergence.

I have a lot of memories of when Randi and I lived together that year + in Astoria.  However, for some reason or another, most of those memories were that I was by myself.   It could be that she took some classes after work, or went out with friends or visited with her psychologist.  During our relationship I had no friends.  None.  I was very shy.  I was afraid of New York City.  I didn't believe I offered anything interesting... Most of the people with whom I worked at the Russell Sage Foundation were female Ivy League graduates.  I didn't fit in... and felt increasingly small.  After work I would explore the ethnic communities of Queens.  I walked everywhere, trying to shake the feeling of inadequacy oozing from my skin.  I discovered Indian markets in Jackson Heights, Asian markets in Elmhurst, Orthodox Jewish and Russian markets in Rego Park, Mexican Markets in Corona, Greek Markets in Astoria...  I discovered new foods and decided to look for authentic cookbooks of food from those countries.  I now knew where to buy the ingredients and I returned home and cooked wonderful recipes.  The following day I would bring to work what I cooked the night before and I felt less worthless...  But Randi didn't cook with me.  She became intimidated in the kitchen and stopped cooking. 

The first time I walked into a Mexican community was with Randi, months before moving in with her and her sister Jodi in her grandmother's apartment in Queens.  Randi's favorite food was Mexican cuisine and she took me to an immigrant Mexican restaurant near Steinway street in the northern end of Astoria.  I never liked Mexican food. In New Jersey the Mexican restaurants were actually Tex-Mex, like Tico Taco on route 22 in North Plainfield.  I found the refried beans, cheddar cheese, ground beef and sour cream too heavy and boring... I didn't understand why people liked those U-shaped taco shells.  They always shattered at the first bite...  But, Randi insisted that what she would show me would change my mind.  But first we must drink a beer.  I said that I didn't like beer.  I called it Piss Water.  But she said, "No, try this Mexican beer.  It's different. Just you wait." The waitress brought us 2 Negra Modelos. Later on I would try Bohemia, Dos Equis, Indio.  In Mexico I would try Sol and Corona Especial and Corona Dark...  I fell in-love with Mexican Beer; the best beer in the world, although I drink it infrequently.  I don't believe in drinking on the job; we work 18 hour days when there is work.  I don't believe in drinking if I am going to draw, paint, read or write...  I don't believe in drinking if I feel down...  or if I need to sleep well that night...  How about that for limitations?  When it came to chosing the menu, Randi said, "You've gotta try the Mole Poblano!" and I was sold...  For one of Randi's birthdays I bought her two really wonderful Mexican cookbooks.  But she didn't use them. She was intimidated by them. (She became intimidated by me in the kitchen)...  One weekend I spent the day looking for all the ingredients for making Black Mole or Mole Negro/Mole Oaxaqueño.  The first step in preparing the mole paste, to make it black, is burning chile veins and seeds. It was as if we had created a bonfire in our 5th floor apartment and someone exploded a can of tear gas. Randi and I ran around with with wet rags over our mouths and noses, opening all the windows and coughing horribly.  I was sure that someone would call the fire department.  It took me 12 hours to prepare the paste.  I had to toast the chiles, almonds, sesame seeds, raisins, grind the dry incredients and mix them with water and the moist ingredients stirring until they were thoroughly mixed and all the moisture had evaporated.  The recipe was awesome.  But, I never prepared it again.  Not even in Mexico; not with Margarita, not with my mother-in-law Paz.  I've looked for the Cunningham A Cooks Tour of Mexico cookbook here in Mexico.  But I've only found cookbooks by Diana Kennedy, which pales in comparison, although Diana supposedly is the expert and has lived in Michoacan since the 50s.  

Not only did Randi introduce me to true Mexican cuisine and the wonderful Mexican beer.  But, she was the first person I knew who had lived in Mexico.  Granted, it was only for 3 months when she was studying Spanish in Cuernavaca.  But I would never forget it... I remember her telling me about the wonderful Mexican hot chocolate and how her host mother prepared it with the special hand-carved wooden frother.  Later on I would buy one of those frothers somewhere in Manhattan...  But I never learned how to use it.  During my 8.5 years in Mexico, I have never seen one used...    

Would you believe that all these years I've believed that my journey towards Mexico began with Michael?  I believed that Randi was the end of an era of my life.  But she really marks the beginning...  

Not long after meeting, Monica from Puerto Rico fell into a housing "crises" and ended up moving in with me.  Once living with me, she insisted upon us marrying, saying "Why wait?  It's our destiny.  It's inevitable. Why put it off?"  Before leaving for a visit with her family in San Juan that coming Christmas, New Years and 3 Kings Day, she said, "why don't we tell my father that we are getting married?" It wasn't a question she was asking.  

Why didn't Randi and I marry when that was something we planned for the future?  

Randi met her husband not long after we broke up, her heart supposedly broken; so angry with me...  My mother didn't hug me for years afterwards... probably not until she visited Margarita and I in April of 2004.  Randi and her husband bought a house in Park Slope around the corner from Anya.  In fact, my first date with Anya, I was waiting for her infront of her duplex on 14th street when Randi walked up to me.  I introduced the two women.  The strange strange thing was that Anya and Randi had the same voices.  They talked the same.  Randi was my first Jewish Girlfriend.  Anya was my second and last...  I took the random meeting as more than a coincidence.  What are the odds?  Between breaking up with Randi in May 1997 and beginning the relationship with Anya exactly 2 years later, I had "bumped" into Randi 3 times.  And I looked out for her.  I wanted to see Randi...  We lived around the corner from each other and I spent much time in her neighborhood.  I took the random meeting as a sign that Anya and I wouldn't work out.  I knew that Anya would experience with me what I experienced with Randi.  The idea played in my head for most of the relationship with Anya until she left for Kiev.  I found it almost impossible to make a move on Anya; Semingly months!  Later on Anya told me that she thought I was only interested in her as a friend.  She believed that if the guy didn't make the move to kiss her after a date, then he was relegating the relationship to plutonia... I walked out on her that evening she made that comment, since I believe firmly in "It takes two to tango."  A while later, Anya called me at my apartment and asked me to return.  I was 1am on a work night...  She made the move.  Why?  

Sometimes we can see the most difficult issues for relationships withing the astrological charts of the couple.  Anya has her Mars in Libra.  Aside from being the Roman God of war, Mars as a planet symbolizes obtaining what you desire.  In 1992, John Gray published his relationship help book Men are From Mars;Women are from Venus.  The planet Venus symbolizes beauty and sensuality amongs other things.  So, the man is Mars, the aggressor and the woman is Venus, the object of attraction...  In the post-feminist modern world, we learn that women are also aggressors and men can be sensual objects of attraction...  It a necessary balance, just as necessary as are aspects of traditional roles in relationships...  Libra is symbolized by a drawing of a balance scale.  It's also considered the sign of politics or justice; always having to weight the situation.  It was difficult for Anya to weight situations, for her to decide what was the best decision to make.  When she finally decided to make the important decision, it was too late.  Our purpose together had ended and I was in the process of moving on...  Anya never married and ended up creating a baby artificially...  

Not long after giving birth to her first child, I bumped into Randi a few times.  I was on my way out, in the last stretch of my life in the U.S. before leaving for Mexico; pushing her son in a stroller or at the Tea Lounge where I drew the drawing of Margarita “The Woman in the Sky” just after bumping into Randi’s older sister Jodi who was visiting from the west coast.  She gave me her phone number, since I was moving to Portland, Oregon the following January, where she lived.  The following month I would draw Bürcu in the Tea Lounge without ever seeing her and then I would meet her the following day.  

Randi and I talked briefly when we met.  I believe she was just being cordial.  One time I walked her towards where she lived.  I don't remember what I said, something about having learned from others how I must have made her feel.  There were tears.  A friendship that ended; a friendship that couldn't be...  When we lived in Astoria, when we knew things were off, something that kept pushing back the planning of a wedding An additional day passed; two days further out of reach... there still existed some form of magic.  In the middle of a heavy argument, something always caused someone to suddenly smile and we would break out laughing, suddenly ending the dispute.  I cared about her.  But I couldn't give her what she wanted from me...  I couldn’t give to myself what I wanted from me.  There was something I needed from myself.  What I didn't know was that that something was within me; it was part of a journey that was about to begin in New York City and continue for years in Mexico. It had nothing to do with other women, although those women appeared helping me learn something else about myself or about life...  

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