He moves with style, and elegant grace

He pays with gold coins, wears satin and lace.

He’s the toast of the town, at masques and balls,

We’ll dance until dawn in candle lit halls.

His words are seductive, an unstoppable force,

Why travel by car, when there’s room on his horse?

Although he’s well-mannered, a gent and a lord,

He’s fueled by passion and quick with a sword.

I’ll know when I see him, they’re hard to come by -

My sword fighting, flute playing, Renaissance guy.

Desert Storm

 

Like many childhood neighborhoods, mine had an abundance of cats. Most of them were friendly, some would come and go as they pleased, and few would only be see once, and never again.

I remember the day the black cat arrived. He was an aloof fellow and spent the majority of his days sleeping on cars. Once in a while, he’d let you sneak a quick pet in…as his coat was perfectly jet black, and so shiny that it looked silver in the suns reflection. His slim body was a solid black mass except for his two bright green eyes. He looked at the neighborhood kids intelligently as they approached, and like most cats, he was fairly selective when it came to human company.

“I’m going to name the black cat, and take him home,” my friend Jessica told me one day, as we watched him sunning himself on her driveway. I took that as a challenge, because I too, wanted to win his affections. “He’ll never let you pick him up, plus you have two cats already, and they stink!” I retorted. This conversation spiraled into some kind of fight that lasted about an hour, which is forever in kid years. The black cat hung around for a couple weeks before moving on. I always kept my eyes out for him and secretly considered him mine.

Like most kids my age, I found myself deathly bored one very hot summer day, and set out walking aimlessly through a desert lot. There was a certain Eucalyptus tree, that had somehow had made it’s way through the years of extreme heat. It towered over the surrounding shrubs and cacti, proud, majestic…and un-scaleable. When you’re a kid, every tree is seen through the filter of “could I climb that?” This Eucalyptus was a gargantuan beast, a beautiful challenge, and it was on that day that I answered to it. For on that day, I looked up to see its branches beginning to quiver in the approaching storm – a desert monsoon. I made a choice, and suddenly I was beginning this voyage up the tree. Every muscle in my  body was aware of the task, and came to answer the call. As I approached the top, the branches began to thin, but I decided to climb just one more. After doing this a couple times, I found myself at the very top, I could go no higher unless I jumped and tried to fly (another idea that sounded tempting, and fortunately some reality did kick it, and I stopped myself. ) My eyes took in the neighborhood below, and as I turned my head up towards the sky. I could see the gray clouds slowly swirling, as they prepared to storm. Thunder struck, and the wind began to move the entire tree.  I held on tight.

I looked to the ground from my precipice, and saw a small dark mass – the black cat. He was watching me from the base of the tree, his eyes wide with inquisitive green. I smiled, and whispered down, “Come on black cat. Come up here with me!”  Before the words were fully uttered, he’d already jumped. His claws dug into the bark, then looked up at me from the first branch. He looked so small from my top of the tree, but his size began to grow, as he began to ascend.

BOOM! Thunder broke, and I felt a couple large, warm drops on my cheek. The cat maintained his rhythm, slow and intentional. The ferocity of the approaching deluge only matched his determination, and mere seconds passed before he reached the top. He nimbly hopped to my lap, gave me a look, and curled up. I breathed deep, and took in the smell of the rain, the eucalyptus leaves and bark. The rain was beginning to fall in steady solid drops, and the wind moved through every branch and leaf on the tree. I swayed back and forth from my perch, and saw the ground begin to turn dark and roofs of the houses turn sleek and wet. I could see the entire neighborhood, and further out, the golf courses, and even further, the mountains, and clouds, and further out…I could only imagine.

I was in this moment in the way only a child can be – fully present, without the cares of tomorrow, or hurts of the past. I felt the cats warm body on my lap, juxtaposed with the coolness of the wind. I knew this would be the last time I would see him.

So there we sat. He and I, at the top of a tree, in a desert storm.5732_1084625591114_1090594855_30201437_4190473_n

Rum and Cigars

“You look like you could use a cigar” the bartender says.

I probably DO look like I could use a cigar.

The sun is setting at Grand Cayman’s Karoo,  casting pink and gold reflections on the window panes. I’m sitting at the bar, but have been eyeing a handsome man sitting outside at a small table.  To his right is a glass of rum, beaded with condensation from the sticky air and to his left, a growing pile of hand rolled cigars.  He looks well into his fifties, possibly cousins with the Dos Equis man. He’s bent over in concentration as his fingers work ceaselessly. A crowd is now gathering around the table.  Passerby’s come and go, while the interested parties would stick around. Often attempting to strike up conversation, or simply staring googly-eyed,  wishing they were that cool. By cool, I mean the kind of classic, rough, and untainted charm that comes from Cuba and hand rolled cigars. Now I don’t claim to be an expert on cigars by any means, and I admit I am awestruck by this master who works the ingredients with such finesse and dedication. It’s similar to watching a sushi master, or a painter at work. Everything must be exact. Perfect.

“What would you like?” the bartender asks me. He has that look on his face, and I know it well. It’s the look a bartender gets when he sees a group of girls walking up to the bar, and know’s they’re going to be (delicately put) total pains in the…
I stare at the cocktail menu, featuring a line up of sweet, fruity, vodka based drinks with names like “Island Paradise.” I know he expects me to pick one of them, and he’s probably pre-muddeling the fruit in his head. My gaze shifts to the top shelf behind him, and I spot what I’ve been looking for. It’s Rum Week in Grand Cayman. Ah…yes.

“I think I’m going to do some rum.”
“Oh really? (Eyebrows raised.) What do you have in mind? “
“I’ll take the Ron Zacapa. XO. Rocks.”
“Excellent choice. Really…that’s what I would have “

He watches me for a second, then smiles and leans in.

“Actually, I really think  you could use a cigar. I’ll take care of it. I know someone.”

And there you have it.

* * * * *

When was the first time I had a cigar? I’m glad you asked. Maria Felix was a Mexican movie star from the 1930′s. Her statuesque figure and commanding presence was equally matched with her classic Maria Felixbeauty that is forever bound to the silver screen. Her real life matched her screen life. I’m talking about one sexy, fierce, Mexican chicana.
I had the immense pleasure of embodying her for my college main stage production of “Orchids in the Moonlight.” The task proved to be encompassing at times. Yet I thrived on the energy I created with her. Maria Felix was often sad,  yet always elegant…and she smoked cigars. Therefore, I smoked cigars starting from day 2 of rehearsal. Granted, I would not advise this to EVERY actor wanting to get into character, but there’s something to be said about strutting about onstage holding a smoking beauty between your lips. Few girls could master it, and I admit it took many failed attempts before I was able to look like I knew what to do with the dang thing. Before long, I became confident, and forgot my cigar was a foreign object. It became another limb.

* * * * *

I’ve found a good cigar to always be accompanied with good memories ( mostly with the guys. )Whether it’s staring at a fire while snow lightly falls under a full moon, or swinging back and forth on a rocking chair as it creaks on an old country porch, or shivering atop a breezy rooftop that while overlooking Brooklyn and the glistening lights of Manhattan; there are moments that become embedded in one’s memory forever, moments that gently remind us what a beauty it is to be alive. Now I find myself drinking a fine rum while the wind blows through my hair on a Caribbean Island. My ears are filled with the sounds of Flamenco music, and I know this moment will be fleeting…actually it may last awhile as this cigar will take FOREVER to finish.


cigar2

The ‘Skinny’ on Grand Cayman

Where does one start when introducing an island?

Whatever I can say would indeed only be an introduction. For like knowing a person, it takes time and shared experience before you can begin to understand the inner workings, and characteristics of a being. That’s what this island is; a living, breathing thing, fueled by the sun and sand. The ground is unlike any other. The air is warm, salty, and untamed. There is something strangely wild…yet familiar to me. To have a yearning for a land one has never set foot on is not uncommon to me. Such as it was with New York. I had dreams of her bare trees against a cloudy sky, and knew it was the exact city I longed for. Others who know what I speak of have a quickening inside when they hear of this. However, New York did not run off  sun and sand. She thrived on human energy. Every dream and longing, every talent and breath of each person coming together into one central place lit up her face. As long as humans keep dreaming, she will never die. Moments of complete alone-ness together bonded me forever to her…at least for a time. It was in the harshness of the rain, and cold, difficulties and extreme triumphs that she cradled me while I cried. The intimate moments of vulnerability and frustration where equally matched with a beauty unparalleled. New York will always remain a part of me. I find that she has changed me, and this has become apparent when I interact with a certain jaded-ness, and a strength that is gently “just there.” For I feel like I can do anything.

This feeling has turned into the pressure that I MUST always be doing SOMETHING. For what do we strive for, when there is nothing we must strive for…

except to simply BE?

And this is where I find myself. I am now in the company of another; a new island more wild and untamed than the last. It is not unlike an experience of entering the home of a new lover. She smells different, she moves different, and it will indeed take some time for us to understand each other. This time should not be rushed. Intimacy must be coaxed. I have now come to yearn for the gentle way in which she moves me. My past love was a roller coaster of emotion, excitement and struggle. But there is no struggle here, and there in lies the struggle.

Salty Kisses.

Date Night

There’s nothing like going on a fabulous date. Now I know we’ve all been on some bad ones. However, this summer I’m tipping my hat to another kind. There’s one little gem who will never fail you. She’ll never make you wait, and she’ll always leave you asking for a second encounter, then a third, until you’re absolutely smitten.

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I’m talking about natures perfect candy, gloriously packed with vitamins, fiber, and that certain sweetness that can even compliment meat, and just about any occasion. A date.

I grew up in Indio California. Snugly nestled near Palm Springs and Coachella Valley, it’s often a town one drives through to get to the coveted Orange County area that boasts of cooler weather and gorgeous beaches.  Indio does have its decent share of low riders, pit bulls, and palm trees, and wears a unique badge all its own; its is the “Date Capital of the World.”  (Sadly Indio stands in the shadow of its much cooler neighbor, Coachella for the Coachella Music Festival.) As one drives through the dusty dry valley, miles of date trees soak up the sun. I distinctly remember the way the sunset looked against the solid army of date trees. At certain times of year, they would be full of paper bags around each bulb to catch the fruit, like desert Christmas trees.

dates

As a kid however, I found these ugly brown things to be rather annoying. Boxes and boxes, endless mountains if dates were in our kitchen at certain times of year. And the desire for a big bowl of ice cream always sounded more appealing when my mom would say “No, if you want a snack, there’s plenty of dates.” At 8 years old I just couldn’t appreciate a date shake, and was always confused by the sign that read, “experience the love and sex life of a date,” (complete with a cartoon date waving at cars full of uninterested Mexicans.) I still don’t think I understand this. Like most kids, my palate began to change after a few years. After moving across the country, and the globe, the flavor of a date is still unparalleled in it’s carmel-like sweetness.

Try stuffing them with mint and manchego cheese, and wrapping them in prosciutto. Finish them off in the oven, and you will NOT be disappointed.

Much love from a date.

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Some things never change….

At a young age, I came to appreciate the art of the burrito. Standards have been set. Tortillas must be home made, preferably with lard because that’s how my Nana always did it. Heated up on a gas stove is a must, leaving the tortilla with beautiful burnt spots that aid to enhance the goodness even more. Butter vs margarine is debatable, but slop it on and sprinkle some salt on it. Adios Mio. Amazing.

A butter burrito, and not a care in the world.

Give it a try at home and see what I mean. For those of you who want to do it right, I’m going to include my Nana’s recipe for her tortillas. Takes a little practice, but well worth it.

Ladies. How to wrap a latino man around your little finger? Learn to make these!

What is a Pasty?

We know that Brooklyn boasts a colorful palate of gourmet delights. Now that comfort food is making a comeback, foodies crave something hot and filling in the winter months. However, one will have to walk far to find The Cornish Pasty Co. because it’s located in Tempe Arizona; definitely gives the southwestern something to brag about. When I went home for the holidays I was reminded that nothing like this exists in Brooklyn. I don’t know if anyone could do it quite as well….yet.

Full and Dirty

What is a pasty? To find out, we’d have to travel to Cornwall England, as far back at 1200. Mining was a thriving industry, and the miner’s wives had an important job; feeding their hubbies. They would bake a thick pastry dough and stuff it with two sides. One with meat, potatoes and the like, and the other with something sweet for desert. They even supplied a crimped handle on one side, because the miners would often have toxic arsenic on their hands. Afterwards, the miners could discard the leftover handle.

What a work of genius right?

The Cornish Pasty Co. sticks to this tradition, maintaining the integrity of the original pasty  “The Oggie” stuffed with steak, onions, potatoes, rutabaga. Good stuff.  However, they’ve jumped to the next level by moving from the classic “English meat pie,” to a hybrid of ingredients that somehow taste perfect in every pasty.

Try “Smoked salmon with dill and chives,  or “The Pilgrim”  which has turkey, sweet potato, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. My personal favorite; “Carne Adovada,” which is Mexican pork cooked in a red chili stew, with rice, hatch chilis, cheddar, and a very important side of sour cream and salsa.  There is guaranteed to be a pasty to suit everyone, vegetarians and vegans alike.

Yes. Please.

The Pilgrim

If you find yourself in Arizona, I highly recommend checking out The Cornish Pasty Co. There are two locations, same owner, same crew, both fabulous. There’s a great happy hour, beer selection, and they even offer pasties togo that you can bake at home (in case you want the full “miner experience.”)

Pasty dude.